Researchers say three times as many people have been killed in wars
over the past 50 years than has been officially acknowledged. The
conclusion is based on a new way to count the war dead by surveying
their survivors. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.
According to the
new survey method, the researchers estimate that 5.4 million deaths
occurred in wars between 1955 and 2002 in the 13 countries studied,
which is three times more than previously estimated. The researchers
say the Vietnam war alone claimed 3.8 million lives.
Ziad Obermeyer is a physician with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
you look across all countries that we looked at and across all years,
the media number was about a third of what we found from all those
numbers," said Ziad Obermeyer.
Obermeyer and colleagues have
developed a way of counting the dead that is different traditional
methods of basing the numbers largely on eye witnesses and media
accounts. Those figures, the researchers say, are open to criticism
for bias and inaccuracy.
Obermeyer says the model incorporates peacetime data gathered after the war has ended.
That information comes from the United Nation's World Health Surveys of families who have lost loved ones.
says incorporating peacetime data into official death estimates
corrects undercounts and political biases that may exist in wars.
He says the model provides a more accurate historical record of the casualties of war.
kinds of numbers are important for the military," he said. "They're
important for politicians and they are important for the public that
needs to know what the consequences of war are."
says it's important to have an official record because it contradicts
the view that the number of civilian and combatant deaths is declining
due to strategic and technological innovations.
The study on war deaths is published in the British Medical Journal.