[OPE-L] 600,000 have died in Iraq war

From: Alejandro Valle Baeza (valle@SERVIDOR.UNAM.MX)
Date: Wed Oct 11 2006 - 22:00:00 EDT

Financial Times
Survey says 600,000 have died in Iraq war

By Clive Cookson, Science Editor, and Steve Negus, Iraq Correspondent

Published: October 11 2006 17:37 | Last updated: October 11 2006 17:37

Conflict in Iraq has killed more than 600,000 people since the US-led
invasion in March 2003, according to a

controversial study published online on Wednesday by the Lancet, a
leading medical journal. The researchers said

their figure, far higher than any previous estimate, was more accurate
than the death tolls produced by official

Iraqi sources.

Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, carried out the
survey with doctors from Al ­Mustansiriya

University in Baghdad, using a technique based on interviewing a random
sample of households throughout Iraq. They

concluded that there were 655,000 "excess deaths" as a result of the
war, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of the

population; 601,000 died through violence, usually gunfire.

The researchers had already published in 2004 an estimate of almost
100,000 excess deaths in the first 18 months

after the invasion, using a similar technique.

In response to the controversy provoked by the first study, Richard
Horton, ­editor of the Lancet, wrote in a

commentary accompanying the new paper: "It is worth emphasising the
quality of this latest report, as judged by four

expert peers who provided detailed comments to editors."

Dr Horton said the findings "corroborate the impression that Iraq is
descending into bloodthirsty chaos".

The study used two medically qualified teams, each consisting of two
male and two female interviewers. They surveyed

1,849 households in 47 randomly selected sites across Iraq between May
and July this year, asking about births,

deaths and migration in and out of the area. A death ­certificate was
available to confirm 92 per cent of the 629

reported deaths.

The mortality rate more than doubled, from a pre-invasion baseline of
5.5 per 1,000 people per year to 13.3 per cent

per 1,000 people per year after the invasion. The violence is worst in a
belt across the centre of Iraq, in the

provinces just north of Baghdad. The least dangerous places to live are
in the south-east and north-east.

"Our total estimate is much higher than other mortality estimates
because we used a population-based, active method

for collecting mortality information rather than passive methods that
depend on counting bodies or tabulated media

reports of violent deaths," said Dr Burnham.

The widely quoted Iraq Body Count, an independent estimate, gives a
death toll since the invasion of about 50,000.

No other mortality study anywhere near as comprehensive as the Lancet
survey has been published, largely due to the

difficulties of gathering accurate information in a country beset with
armed groups and fearful of outsiders. The

researchers acknowledged that security concerns had affected the
gathering of data and said that the survey teams

were allowed to choose alternative sites if they judged that the
original, randomly selected ones were too


However, the Lancet paper did not explain in detail how the researchers
could have visited 47 sites across the

country during three months when sectarian violence was at its height
and most Iraqis did not leave their home

neighbourhood for fear of kidnapping or murder.
Alejandro Valle Baeza

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