The Health Effects of War
Health Effects of War on Unarmed Civilians
The great twentieth-century change in warfare has been the power of mass killing at a distance - Jonathan Glover
Three times as many people were killed in wars during the twentieth century - an average of over 100 people an hour -- than died in wars from the first century to 1899. By the end of the 20th century, 9 of 10 people who lost their lives in war from direct and indirect causes were civilians as compared with 65% in World War II. The increase in bombing in warfare and the growing density of human settlements through the process of urbanization are two of the factors that account for this trend in increased civilian death in war. In the Iraq War, hundreds of civilians have died for every US military death*; while doctors studying data on those wounded and killed in the war in Afghanistan report 93% civilians and 34% children victims. The December 2008-January 2009 Israeli bombing of dense residential/commercial areas in Gaza resulted in both a high proportion of immediate civilian death and injury and also in severe damage to the health and economic infrastructure, portending higher post-bombing deaths.
- Slide Show on Civilian Casualties of Iraq War: Explores the controversy over estimates of civilian deaths in the US war in Iraq, which range from about 110,000 to more than 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens. The PowerPoint presentation was created by David Rush, MD who has been active in Physicians for Social Responsibility for more than 30 years. Also see the study on which slide show is based.
- War and Public Health. Barry S. Levy, Roberta Ferrence, Victor Sidel. American Public Health Association. 2000.
This book - the first comprehensive appraisal of the impact of war on public health - lays out in great detail the adverse effects of war on human health, health service systems, and the environment and the role of health workers in peace advocacy. It includes the experiences of many public health practitioners, educators, and researchers who have been engaged in documenting and protesting the consequences of war. The editors are renowned public health experts who are also anti-war activists, and they use the book to advocate for peace by depicting the destructive impact of war on civilian health and health systems.
- Civil Wars Kill and Maim People Long After the Shooting Stops. Hazem Ghobarah, Paul Huth, and Bruce Russett.
This study, which looks at armed conflicts of the 1990s, estmates how much war-related death and disability of civilians continues long after the conflict has ceased. Women and children are the major victims, particularly in civil wars.
- Green Parrots: A War Surgeon's Diary. Gino Strada. CHARTA. 2004.
Gino Strada is an Italian surgeon who co-founded Emergency, an Italian humanitarian organization for the care and rehabilitation of civilian victims of war and landmines which has worked for twenty years in all of the major international and civil wars. The book's title, Green Parrots, is the military nickname for four-inch long anti-personnel landmines (designed to look like toys) which litter the agricultural fields, playing areas, paths to village wells in areas of war throughout the world. This book introduces us up-close to the human toll of severe injury, trauma, suffering and death suffered by the innocent caught in war; and it argues against the injustice of accepting war as inevitable.
Action and Policy Organizations
- Peace Action is working to lobby for general and specific actions to mitigate civilian deaths and promote a peaceful relationship between the US and Afghanistan.
- For news on the recent deaths of more than 130 civilian Afghans caused by U.S. airstrikes, see: http://www.alternet.org/story/139881 and http://www.alternet.org/story/139965/
- September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was formed by some individuals and families who lost loved ones in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a movement of solidarity with other victims of war and conflict from over the world. In their initiatives, they call for diplomatic approaches to reduce hostility and to reject violent revenge on behalf of peace, healing and reconciliation.
- Women in Black is a women's anti-war movement with an estimated 10,000 activists around the world. The first group was formed by Israeli women in 1988, following the outbreak of the first Intifida. Members are committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.
Health Effects of War on Women
According to recent studies on life expectancy among unarmed civilians caught in armed conflict, women are the primary adult victims of war. A unique harm of war for women is the trauma inflicted in military brothels, rape camps, the growing sex trafficking for prostitution, and increased domestic violence. Widows of war, women victims of landmines, and women refugees of war are particularly vulnerable to poverty, prostitution, and higher illness and death in the post-conflict period.
- 10 Reasons Why Militarism is Bad for Women
on the website of Population and Development Program at Hampshire College
- On the Battlefield of Women's Bodies: an Overview of the Harm of War to Women. H. Patricia Hynes. Women's Studies International Forum. 2004.
- Sexual Violence: Weapon of War, Impediment to Peace Published by the Refugee Studies Centre in association with the United Nations Population Fund January 2007
This is a collection of studies on sexual violence in recent and current wars in Africa, the Middle East, and South America and also UN and regional policy initiatives to end sexual violence and engage women in peace and security programs. The collection comes out of the International Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond convened in 2006.
- Women, War and Peace: The Independent Experts' Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women's Role in Peace-Building. Elisabeth Rehn and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. United Nations Development Fund for Women. 2002.
The authors visited more than 14 war zones in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe to document the brutal treatment and sexual slavery of women during war. They make recommendations for more female candidates in post-conflict elections, a greater role for women in peace-making and post-conflict reconstruction efforts, and the appointment of more women to UN peacekeeping and diplomatic posts. And they insist that violence against women in war be treated as a crime of war and prosecuted or else crimes against women will continue.
Action and Policy Organizations
- Africa: Akina Mama wa Afrika, Kampala, Uganda
See the interview with the Regional Programme Director on violence against women in armed conflict.
CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects foreign policies based on domination and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law. With an emphasis on joy and humor, CODEPINK women and men seek to activate, amplify and inspire a community of peacemakers through creative campaigns and a commitment to non-violence. CODEPINK has over 250 local chapters.
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is a non-governmental organization that promotes women's human rights. It works internationally to combat sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially prostitution and trafficking in women and children, in particular girls.
CATW is composed of regional networks and of affiliated individuals and groups. It serves as an umbrella that coordinates and takes direction from its regional organizations and networks in its work against sexual exploitation and in support of women's human rights.
Health Effects of War on Mothers and Children
The two studies cited below examine more than 40 armed conflicts in every region of the world to evaluate the critical types of vulnerabilities suffered by and protections needed by women, girls and boys in war zones. Their vulnerabilities include: sexual violence and physical harm, trafficking and prostitution, contracting of HIV/AIDS, military recruitment of children, psychological trauma, family separation, and conditions in refugee and displaced persons camps. A PDF version of both reports may be found on the Save the Children website .
- Mothers and Children in War and Conflict. A Report on the State of the World's Mothers by Save the Children, a leading international non-profit children's relief and development organization working in more than 40 countries. 2002.
- Protecting Women and Children in War and Conflict. A Report on the State of the World's Mothers by Save the Children. 2003.
- The Impact of War on Children. Graca Machel. UNICEF. 2001. Published by Hurst & Company, London.
For more than 15 years, Graca Machal of Mozambique has documented the pernicious effects of war on children. Her Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (1996) was commissioned by the UN. Five years later the government of Canada convened the International Conference on War-affected Children at which Graca Machal reported on progress made in the protection of children in war. This book is based on that conference report. The book exposes new threats to children in war zones, such as HIV/AIDS, and also showcases new programs to protect children, reunite families, engage women in peace-building and community reconstruction. It calls for the “transformation of schools into safe havens for communal care, learning and support” as a structural path to stability for children victims of war.
Action and Policy Organization
- Save the Children
Save the Children works for and with children at risk of hunger and malnutrition and those affected by natural disaster, war and conflict in all parts of the world and the United States.