A Novel Method for Verifying War Mortality while Estimating Iraqi Deaths for the Iran-Iraq War through Operation Desert Storm (1980-1993)

Publication Date:

21 Oct 2016


Li SJ, Flaxman A, Lafta R, Galway L, Takaro TK, Burnham G, et al. (2016). A Novel Method for Verifying War Mortality while Estimating Iraqi Deaths for the Iran-Iraq War through Operation Desert Storm (1980-1993). PLoS One. 11(10), e0164709. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0164709



We estimated war-related Iraqi mortality for the period 1980 through 1993.

To test our hypothesis that deaths reported by siblings (even dating back several decades) would correspond with war events, we compared sibling mortality reports with the frequency of independent news reports about violent historic events. We used data from a survey of 4,287 adults in 2000 Iraqi households conducted in 2011. Interviewees reported on the status of their 24,759 siblings. Death rates were applied to population estimates, 1980 to 1993. News report data came from the ProQuest New York Times database.

About half of sibling-reported deaths across the study period were attributed to direct war-related injuries. The Iran-Iraq war led to nearly 200,000 adult deaths, and the 1990–1991 First Gulf War generated another approximately 40,000 deaths. Deaths during peace intervals before and after each war were significantly lower. We found a relationship between total sibling-reported deaths and the tally of war events across the period, p = 0.02.

We report a novel method to verify the reliability of epidemiological (household survey) estimates of direct war-related injury mortality dating back several decades.


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