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More Children Die Indirectly From Armed Conflict In Africa Than Real Fighting – New Study

More African children were killed from the indirect effect of armed conflicts on the African continent than from actual battles, according to a new study of Stanford University.

On 18 June, two young sisters from Burundi sit outside the entrance to their family’s tent shelter in the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Kigoma Region. The girls came with their mother to the camp. Their father’s whereabouts are unknown.
By mid-June 2015 in the United Republic of Tanzania, more than 63,650 Burundian refugees had sought shelter to escape violence and political turmoil in their homeland. They are among more than 110,000 Burundians – the majority of them children and women – who have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and the United Republic of Tanzania to escape the hostilities. The large influx of refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania has resulted in overcrowding and limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene, posing a threat of disease spread, including cholera. Although a recent cholera outbreak continues to stabilize, a significant risk of disease resurgence remains. In Kigoma Region, the Nyarugusu camp has been expanded to accommodate incoming Burundian refugees in addition to the 50,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have lived there for 20 years. The camp now hosts 56,000 Burundians – more than half of whom are children. New arrivals are initially housed in communal buildings and schools, while the blocks for tents and family shelters are being constructed. The temporary shelters as well as residential blocks have water taps, bathing stalls and latrines, but needs exceed resources. UNICEF is working with the Government and partners, including other United Nations organizations, on both sides of the border, and has provided relief supplies at the country’s north-western border with Burundi and dispatched cholera treatment supplies, including a cholera kit (for management of up to 100 cholera cases) and high-energy food supplements, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and health and nutrition items in response to the outbreak. UNICEF is also supporting the

Stanford researchers found that about 3.1 million to 3.5 million infants born within 48 kilometres of armed conflict were killed from 1995 to 2015 as a result of indirect consequences of armed conflicts.

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In the period of 20 years, the number of infant mortality related to armed conflicts was more than three times the direct deaths from these fighting that took place on the African continent, they said in the study published in the journal The Lancet.

The researchers studied the cause of child mortality from African armed conflict on the basis of the data from the Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 35 African countries from 1995 to 2015.

They matched data on 15,441 armed-conflict events with data on 1.99 million births and subsequent child survival across 35 African countries. The dataset includes information about the time, location, type and intensity of conflicts from 1946 to 2016.

They discovered evidence of increased mortality risk from as far away as 96 kilometres from armed conflicts and for eight years after them.

Children younger than one year were the riskiest population if they were born in the same year as a nearby armed conflict, said the researchers.

The lingering impact of armed conflicts could raise infant mortality rate by more than 30 percent even after fighting ended for years, they noted.

“The indirect effects of conflict on children are so much greater than the direct deaths from warfare,” said Eran Bendavid, author of the study.

“Our data suggest that conflict can itself be a key driver of these outcomes, affecting health services and nutritional outcomes hundreds of kilometers away and for nearly a decade after the conflict event,” said Marshall Burke, an assistant professor of the Stanford Department of Earth Systems Science and fellow at the Center on Food Security and the Environment.

The Stanford study indicated that the absence of health care, vaccines, food, water and shelter kills more civilians than bombs and bullets.

The indirect toll of armed conflict among children is three to five times greater than the estimated number of direct casualties in conflict, and the results could be even worse if the impact on women or other vulnerable population was taken into consideration.

The researchers hope their findings could help boost humanitarian aid to African children in conflict zones.

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