Using Public Health Solutions to Measure the Health Impacts of Conflict and End War
We advocate for using public health data and methodologies to prevent and protect health systems from the violence and collateral health damage caused by war and conflict.
War and armed conflict have a devastating impact on health systems and the health of communities. In addition to helping governments rebuild health systems, from hospitals to health workforce, we also recognize the need to highlight the harmful effects of war on health and develop better ways of responding to — or better yet, preventing — conflict situations. The powerful tools of public health, including robust research methodologies and dissemination of results, are essential to documenting and advocating for policy change to improve lives.
War causes injury and death directly; by some estimates, armed conflict resulted in 1 to 1.5 million deaths per year in the 20th century. That’s about the same number of annual deaths from AIDS or tuberculosis, but more deaths than caused by malaria each year. The health costs of war are not only limited to treatment needed for victims and veterans of war; they are also felt in the diversion of financial resources away from health, education, and social sectors towards ministries of defense to fund military action.
Armed conflict also destroys hospitals, water and sanitation systems and drives health workers away from combat zones. Countries emerging from conflict are often faced with rebuilding an entire health system, with few resources at a time of great need.
Efforts to research, document and illustrate the impact of war on health and health systems are critical. As is making sure that information reaches the broader community through activism, media, and policy.
Is the estimated number of excess Iraqi deaths between 2003 and 2011 attributable to the Iraq War, according to the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study, led by HAI’s Dr. Amy Hagopian.
Too often, the reported death counts from war and conflict settings are limited to violent deaths. The collaborative, however, found that about a third of deaths were attributable to the indirect impacts of war—i.e. from failures of health, sanitation, transportation, communication, and other systems. These very real deaths are included in the estimate above, the first of its kind.
sign ons & Resolutions
- World Says No to War on Yemen, open letter and online rally to speak out against conflict, January 20, 2021 [Sign-on]
- A Call to End the Bombing of Yemen and the Blockade on Its Ports, APHA resolution policy statement October 24, 2020 [Resolution]
- Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons, APHA resolution policy statement October 24, 2020 [Resolution]
- Rights Groups to Washington Institute: Don’t Create PR Platform for Saudi Foreign Minister, letter to the Washington Institute, October 15, 2020 [Sign-on]
- Please Do Not Attend Saudi Arabia’s G20, Open Letter to the Mayors of New York, Houston, Los Angeles, London, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, & Montreal from a global coalition of human rights and peace organizations, Sept. 20, 2020. [Sign-on]
- A Call to End Violent Attacks on Health Workers and Health Facilities in War and Armed Conflict Settings, statement presented to the WHO and UN, November 5, 2019 [Resolution]
- Resolution from the People’s Town Hall on Nuclear Weapons, presented to Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, October 2019 [Sign-on]
- Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War, endorsement of principles, 2018 [Sign-on]
- Cleanup of U.S. Military Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, APHA resolution letter, November 3, 2015 [Resolution]
- Cessation of Military Recruiting in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, APHA resolution policy statement October 30, 2012 [Resolution]
- Resolution on Armed Conflict and War, World Federation resolution, May 15, 2011 [Resolution]
- The Role of Public Health Practitioners, Academics, and Advocates in Relation to Armed Conflict and War, APHA resolution policy statement, November 10, 2009 [Resolution]
- Letter to UN Security Council on Justice and Accountability for Serious Crimes Committed in Timor-Leste, letter to UN Security Council, October 20, 2009 [Sign-on]
- U.S. Groups Oppose Training of Indonesia’s Notorious Kopassus Special Forces, letter to Obama Administration, July 23, 2009 [Sign-on]
- Indonesia: Letter to Australia on Papua asylum seekers, letter to Australian Prime Minister, January 20, 2006 [Sign-on]
Statements & Publications
- PHM-USA And HAI Condemn US Atrocities At Southern Border, Stand In Solidarity With Migrants And Asylum Seekers, joint statement with the People’s Health Movement, August 1, 2019 [Statement]
- Why isn’t war properly framed and funded as a public health problem? Med Confl Surviv, 2017 [Publication]
- A Novel Method for Verifying War Mortality while Estimating Iraqi Deaths for the Iran-Iraq War through Operation Desert Storm (1980-1993), PLoS One, 2016 [Publication]
- Navigating a four-university, three-country collaboration to estimate mortality in Iraq after the 2003 invasion and occupation, Lancet Glob Health, 2014 [Publication]
- Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003–2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study, PLoS Med, 2013 [Publication]
- Trends in childhood leukemia in Basrah, Iraq, 1993-2007, Am J Public Health, 2010 [Publication]
Op-Eds, News & Events
- Health Alliance International Acts to Protect Syrian Health Workers, UW DGH, 2020 [News]
- The largest humanitarian crisis in the world, The Daily, 2018 [News]
- Nuclear disarmament and racial equality are inextricably linked, HAI-sponsored lecture, “African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement”, 2018 [News]
- What caused the West African Ebola outbreak? Healio: Infectious Disease News, 2017 [Op-Ed]
- Military Burn Pits: The New Agent Orange? Huffpost, 2016 [Op-Ed]
- Health and Justice in a Time of Austerity, AJPH, 2015 [Op-Ed}
- Why are we waging a war in Yemen? Huffpost, 2015 [Op-Ed]
- Iraq War through a different lens, The Daily, 2008 [News]
WHO WE FIGHT ALONGSIDE
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Our mission is to promote policies and support programs that strengthen government primary health care and foster social, economic, and health equity for all. Our vision is a just world that promotes health and well-being, including universal access to quality health care.
Health Alliance International began in 1987 as a US-based international solidarity organization committed to supporting the public sector provision of health care for all. Over 35 years, HAI conducted programs in 17 countries, with flagship programs in Mozambique, Côte d'Ivoire, and Timor-Leste.
In line with HAI’s commitment to support and strengthen local public health leadership, as of October 2021, HAI fully transitioned global operations and active programs to locally-based, locally-led NGOs. Learn more about this shift toward local autonomy and equity in global health.