Disease Now Main Cause of Death in Darfur Conflict

As violence-related deaths have subsided, deaths related to diarrhea have increased
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Since 2005, disease has replaced violence as the leading cause of death in Darfur, especially among displaced populations, according to a study in the Jan. 23 issue of The Lancet.

Oliver Degomme, M.D., of the Université Catholique de Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, and a colleague analyzed data from 63 retrospective mortality surveys.

Between early 2004 and late 2008, the researchers found that mortality rates significantly declined, and that a reduction in violence-rated deaths was the most significant factor. They also found that displacement was associated with a reduction in violence-related deaths and an increase in diarrhea-related deaths. Violence was the main cause of death in 2004 but, since 2005, diseases have caused most deaths. Overall, the researchers estimated that the Darfur conflict has resulted in 298,271 excess deaths.

"We conclude that the Darfur conflict shows a typical pattern of mortality rates with time, characterized by a peak in the number of violent deaths that is followed by a protracted phase of increased disease-related mortality rate," the authors conclude. "The phase particularly affects displaced individuals living in conditions of poor sanitary infrastructure, making them susceptible to diseases associated with diarrhea. Adequate humanitarian assistance to prevent and treat these potentially fatal diseases is essential. The full effect of the expulsion of non-governmental organizations from Darfur is still not known, but the increased mortality rate during a period of reduced humanitarian deployment in 2006 to 2007 suggests that we should fear the worst."

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