Report

The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: a Mortality Study 2002-06

Bloomberg School of Public Health Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland

School of Medicine Al Mustansiriya University Baghdad, Iraq

in cooperation with the

Center for International Studies Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts

principal authors

Gilbert Burnham Shannon Doocy Elizabeth Dzeng Riyadh Lafta Les Roberts

Summary of the Iraq Mortality Report

A new household survey of Iraq has found that approximately 600,000 people have been killed in the violence of the war that began with the U.S. invasion in March 2003. The survey was conducted by an American and Iraqi team of public health researchers. Data were collected by Iraqi medical doctors with analysis conducted by faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The results will be published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

The survey is the only population-based assessment of fatalities in Iraq during the war. The method, a survey of more than 1,800 households randomly selected in clusters that represent Iraq’s population, is a standard tool of epidemiology and is used by the U.S. Government and many other agencies.

The survey also reflects growing sectarian violence, a steep rise in deaths by gunshots, and very high mortality among young men. An additional 53,000 deaths due to non-violent causes were estimated to have occurred above the pre-invasion mortality rate, most of them in recent months, suggesting a worsening of health status and access to health care.

Methods

Between May and July 2006 a national cluster survey was conducted in Iraq to assess deaths occurring during the period from January 1, 2002, through the time of survey in 2006. Information on deaths from 1,849 households containing 12,801 persons was collected. This survey followed a similar but smaller survey conducted in Iraq in 2004. Both surveys used standard methods for estimating deaths in conflict situations, using population-based methods.

Key Findings

Death rates were 5.5/1,000/year pre-invasion, and overall, 13.2/1,000/year for the 40 months post-invasion.We estimate that through July 2006, there have been 654,965 “excess deaths”—fatalities above the pre-invasion death rate— in Iraq as a consequence of the war. Of post-invasion deaths, 601,027 were due to violent causes. Non-violent deaths rose above the pre-invasion level only in 2006. Since March 2003, an additional 2.5% of Iraq’s population have died above what would have occurred without conflict.

The proportion of deaths ascribed to coalition forces has diminished in 2006, though the actual numbers have increased each year. Gunfire remains the most common reason for death, though deaths from car bombing have increased from 2005. Those killed are predominantly males aged 15-44 years.

 

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