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UW researcher: Nearly a half million deaths from Iraq War

In this Aug. 3, 2003 file photo, members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade salute the casket of Army Spc Justin Hebert of Silvana, Washington, being carried to a C-130, at Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq. Herbert was killed when his convoy came under fire from rocket propelled grenades. (AP Photo/USAF, Staff Sgt. Lee A. Osberry Jr.)

Researchers from four institutions, including the University of Washington, say 461,000 deaths are related to the Iraq war from 2003 through 2011.

The results from the first population-based survey to estimate war-related deaths are published here, in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Although researchers say there were close to half a million deaths during the war, the actual number could be as low as 48,000 or as high as 751,000. That’s a significant range.

The researchers claim that for every three people killed by violence during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, two more died as a result of the collapse of the infrastructure that supports health care, clean water, nutrition and transportation.

To conduct their study, researchers went to 2,000 randomly selected households in Iraq in 100 clusters throughout the country and asked about births and deaths since 2001.

They say only 24 households refused to participate in the study.

Based on household survey responses, gunshots caused 62 percent of violent deaths, 12 percent came from car bombs, and other explosions accounted for 9 percent.

Deaths increased to twice expected levels at the onset of the war, plateaued briefly at the end of 2003, then rose again to a new peak in 2006. Thereafter, deaths dropped until 2008, when they leveled off and then rose again slightly in 2011.

Why do this study?

“Policymakers, governments and the public need better data on the health effects of armed conflict. Without this information, it’s impossible to assess the true human costs of war,” says lead author Amy Hagopian, a UW associate professor of global health.

Hagopian also says in the conclusion of her report, “Most mortality increases in Iraq can be attributed to direct violence, but about a third are attributable to indirect causes such as from failures of health, sanitation, transportation, communication, and other systems.”

The report does not include any of the deaths involving U.S. troops. A total of 4,486 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq during that time period, according to government reports.


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