Direct conflict deaths
Armed conflicts – including cross-border and civil wars – destroy lives and livelihoods. Both combatants and civilians are killed as a result of armed conflict. But establishing a firm estimate of the numbers of people directly killed as a result of war is challenging owing to limited reporting and surveillance in affected areas. Moreover, data is often manipulated for political motives.
The Global Burden of Armed Violence (GBAV) report seeks to establish a global estimate of direct conflict deaths between 2004 and 2007. The estimate draws from a wide combination of conflict databases, national datasets, and studies that draw primarily on incident-reporting methods. While survey-based assessments of those dying directly and from secondary causes are increasing in number, there are currently insufficient to generate a meaningful global profile of those killed during war.
The study finds that approximately 52,000 direct conflict deaths occurred each year between 2004 and 2007. Altogether at least 208,300 people died directly as a result of armed conflict. Between 2005 and 2007 the total number of direct conflict deaths increased to an estimated 63,900 per annum as compared to lower annual tolls in 2004 and 2005. This increase is due primarily to armed violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Somalia.
The GBAV finds that the distribution of direct conflict deaths is not uniform. Direct conflict deaths tend to be highly concentrated in a limited number of countries. Approximately two thirds (66 per cent) of all direct conflict deaths between 2004 and 2007 occurred in Asia, almost one-quarter (24 per cent) in Africa, 6 per cent in the Americas and 2 per cent in Europe.
Table: Top ten direct conflict death countries, relative percentage, 2004-07.
|Conflicts||Direct conflict deaths||% of total conflict deaths|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||9,346||4.5|
A review of direct conflict deaths provides a partial picture of the burden of armed violence. The total number of people dying violently during conflict (52,000) is relatively low in comparison to those dying indirectly from armed conflict (200,000) and those experiencing violent deaths in areas that are not affected by armed conflict (540,000) List of countries by intentional homicide rate each year.
It is important to stress that a global estimate of direct conflict deaths provides only a partial understanding of the overall burden of war, much less armed violence. For example, the total number of people dying violently during conflict (52,000) is relatively low in comparison to those dying indirectly from armed conflict (200,000). While still extremely high, it is also comparatively modest when compared to the number of people killed in countries ostensibly unaffected by armed conflict (540,000) List of countries by intentional homicide rate each year.
- Geneva Declaration Secretariat. 2008. The Global Burden of Armed Violence. Geneva: Geneva Declaration Secretariat
- Geneva Declaration Secretariat. 2008. The Global Burden of Armed Violence. Geneva: Geneva Declaration Secretariat, p. 20
- Geneva Declaration Secretariat. 2008. The Global Burden of Armed Violence. Geneva: Geneva Declaration Secretariat, p.22