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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

650,000 "excess" deaths

The Washington Post is reporting a finding on October 11 that is already the subject of great discussion (nearly 200 blog links so far):
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred....

Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.
The study was overseen by the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This is the same group that previously said that 100,000 Iraqis had died in the first 18 months of the war. While that study was controversial, the group stands by its methods:
Both this and the earlier study are the only ones to estimate mortality in Iraq using scientific methods. The technique, called "cluster sampling," is used to estimate mortality in famines and after natural disasters.

While acknowledging that the estimate is large, the researchers believe it is sound for numerous reasons. The recent survey got the same estimate for immediate post-invasion deaths as the early survey, which gives the researchers confidence in the methods. The great majority of deaths were also substantiated by death certificates.

"We're very confident with the results," said Gilbert Burnham, a Johns Hopkins physician and epidemiologist.
In addition to referencing the death certificates (90% were produced), the newspaper also quoted a couple of independent experts as well to support the veracity of the claim:
Ronald Waldman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University who worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for many years, called the survey method "tried and true," and added that "this is the best estimate of mortality we have."

This viewed was echoed by Sarah Leah Whitson, an official of Human Rights Watch in New York, who said, "We have no reason to question the findings or the accuracy" of the survey.
The Bush administration will be asked, yet again, to explain just how much the US is helping Iraq.

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