Civilian deaths have risen dramatically in Iraq since
the country was invaded in March 2003, according to a
survey conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public
Health, Columbia University School of Nursing and
Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad.
The researchers found that the majority of deaths were
attributed to violence, which were primarily the result of
military actions by Coalition forces. Most of those killed
by Coalition forces were women and children. However, the
researchers stressed that they found no evidence of
improper conduct by the Coalition soldiers.
The survey is the first countrywide attempt to
calculate the number of civilian deaths in Iraq since the
war began. The United States military does not keep records
on civilian deaths, and record keeping by the Iraq Ministry
of Health is limited. The study is published in the Oct. 29
online edition of The Lancet.
"Our findings need to be independently verified with a
larger sample group. However, I think our survey
demonstrates the importance of collecting civilian casualty
information during a war and that it can be done," said
lead author Les Roberts, an associate with the Bloomberg
School of Public Health's Center for International
Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies.
The researchers conducted their survey in September
2004. They randomly selected 33 neighborhoods of 30 homes
from across Iraq and interviewed the residents about the
number and ages of the people living in each home. More
than 7,800 Iraqis were included. Residents were questioned
about the number of births and deaths that had occurred in
the household since January 2002. Information was also
collected about the causes and circumstances of each death.
When possible, the deaths were verified with a death
certificate or other documentation.
The researchers compared the mortality rate among
civilians in Iraq during the 14.6 months prior to the March
2003 invasion with the 17.8-month period following the
invasion. The sample group reported 46 deaths prior to
March 2003 and 142 deaths following the invasion. The
results were calculated twice, both with and without
information from the city of Falluja. The researchers felt
the excessive violence from combat in Falluja could skew
the overall mortality rates. Excluding information from
Falluja, they estimate that 100,000 more Iraqis died than
would have been expected had the invasion not occurred.
Eighty-four percent of the deaths were reported to be
caused by the actions of Coalition forces, and 95 percent
of those deaths were due to air strikes and artillery.
"There is a real necessity for accurate monitoring of
civilian deaths during combat situations. Otherwise it is
impossible to know the extent of the problems civilians may
be facing or how to protect them," said study co-author
Gilbert Burnham, associate professor of international
health at the Bloomberg School and director of the Center
for International, Disaster and Refugee Studies.
"Mortality Before and After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq:
Cluster Sample Survey" was written by Les Roberts, Riyadh
Lafta, Richard Garfield, Jamal Khudhairi and Gilbert
Burnham. Roberts and Burham are with the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health. Lafta and Khudhairi are
with the College of Medicine at Al-Mustansiriya University
in Baghdad. Garfield is with the Columbia University School
The study was funded by the Center for International
Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies at the Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Small
Arms Survey in Geneva.