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WHO counts Iraqi deaths

15th January 2008

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a survey showing that at least 151,000 Iraqis have died violent deaths as a result of the war.


The figures are based on a national household health survey carried out by Iraqi and WHO officials between March 2003 and June 2006.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the estimate is based on interviews conducted in 9,345 household in 10,000 neighbourhoods and villages around the country.

The estimate of 151,000 is made from an estimated range for the number of violent deaths that runs from 104,000 to 223,000. The deaths only refer to deaths as a result of violence, and do not include war-related deaths from disease or malnutrition.

The health survey was originally designed to provide a basis for the Iraqi government to develop and update health policies and plan services.

WHO statistician Mohamed Ali, who collaborated on the survey, said death tolls were always difficult to arrive at in conflict situations, and the household survey results should be interpreted with caution.

But he said the figures were the best that could be arrived at in the absence of comprehensive death registrastion and hospital reporting.

Iraq's health services have shattered under the burden of the conflict.

Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO representative in Iraq, said the survey estimate was three times higher than the toll produced by the Iraq Body Count, which screens media reports for death figures.

The study found that violence became a leading cause of death for Iraqi adults after March 2003 and the main cause for men aged 15-59 years.

On average, 128 Iraqis died every day of violent causes in the first year following the invasion and that the average daily violent death toll was 115 in the second year and 126 in the third year. More than half of the violent deaths occurred in Baghdad.

The Iraq Family Health Survey also tracked pregnancy history, mental health status, chronic illnesses, smoking habits, sexually transmitted infections, domestic violence and heath-care spending patterns.

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimated last year that 655,000 more people had died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. This study compared an overall death rate, regardless of cause, with pre-war mortality figures.

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