BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and the Impact of Ethnic Cleansing



Ethnic cleansing is defined as the organized, strategic and systematic elimination of other ethnic, tribal or racial groups from a region by a more powerful group, usually with the intention of creating ethnic homogeneity. Various kinds of forced migration are used to achieve this removal including deportation, population transfer, discrimination, inequity, deprivation, intimidation, genocide and genocidal rape. Ethnic cleansing is often accompanied by additional efforts to destroy and remove all physical, structural, religious and cultural traces of the cleansed group in the region. This attempt to create extinction is achieved through the demolition and destruction of houses, social centers, farms and infrastructure, as well as the desecration of monuments, cemeteries, spiritual symbols and religious houses.

Countries such as Sudan and Bosnia experience widespread ethnic cleansing, burning of villages, looming starvation, massive killings and gang rape. Ethnic cleansing was particularly observed in Sudan by the UN experts who took a 10-day trip to visit the country. Following the civil war in December 2013, over 50,000 people have been killed, approximately 2.3 million people have been internally displaced and about 6 million Sudanese are currently at risk of hunger. More so, up to 70 percent of schools in the country have been closed due to the current situation of the country.

Given the unethical and clearly inhumane nature of ethnic cleansing, several health impacts and consequences are predictable. In a study titled “Psychiatric consequences of ethnic cleansing: clinical assessments and trauma testimonies of newly resettled Bosnian refugees” by Weine et al, the authors interviewed Bosnian refugees referred from agencies managing refugee resettlement. The interviews were systematic, trauma-focused and clinical interviews which included standardized assessment scales. Their findings showed that the traumatic experiences of ethnic cleansing in these refugees were genocidal and correlated positively with age. In addition, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive disorders were diagnosed in 65% and 35% of these refugees respectively. Conclusively, this study showed that ethnic cleansing resulted in high rates of PTSD, depression, as well as other forms of psychological morbidity, in the studied group. Another study on the “Long-term effects of ethnic cleansing in the former Polish-German borderland” showed that removing portions of the population forcefully wrecks social networks and discards specific skills and knowledge. Further, ethnically cleansed regions tend to remain different, with higher crime rates, lower civic engagement, and less efficient public services.

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