BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Health in conflict: A global health issue



Conflict can be described as a form of dissonance or disharmony arising within or among groups as a result of differences and disagreements regarding beliefs or actions. When conflict arises within a group, it is termed intragroup conflict while conflict among two or more groups is called intergroup conflict. Conflict usually involves violence, interpersonal discord, and often follows a particular course. In the face of conflicts, routine group interaction is interrupted due to differences of opinion or other types of disagreements between members. These threaten the unity of the group- and may cause separation, alliances or violence. The effects of conflict on human health can be broad and devastating- including:

  • Direct physical impact or injury from fighting
  • Indirect morbidity and mortality as a result of collapse or deterioration of public health
  • Psychological and emotional effects of conflicts which have long-term effects on quality of life, disability, and survival.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a case at hand, vividly illustrating how conflict cripples the healthcare system and consequently, the health of the populace. The country which was once known for its network of clinics and quality health care professionals has been experiencing political and economic downfall for the past three decades. Currently in DRC, hospitals and clinics have zero to limited qualified healthcare professionals as well as insufficient equipment, medicine and other medical supplies. Life expectancy is below average and government expenditure on health per capita remains one of the lowest in the world. Consequently, about 70% of the population lack or have limited access to health care. Malnutrition rate- both chronic and acute has remained over 43% for up to 2 decades and is reflected in the stunted growth and wasted look of many children. Additionally, approximately 39% of younger women anemic and about 14% are underweight. Needless to say, infectious diseases remain a major health problem with malaria resulting in an estimated 40% of outpatient visits, and causing nearly 1 in 5 deaths of children below 5 years of age. DRC has the 2nd and 6th highest global cases of malaria and Tuberculosis respectively, singlehandedly accounting for 11% of the global burden of malaria in 2013.

Improving the health care system is essential to improving the health of Congolese citizens. DRC has recently made significant progress following enhanced leadership and investments in priority health issues by the government and international partners. In general, the number of children between 12 and 23 months who received all recommended vaccines moved up from 31% in 2007 to 45% in 2013. From the year 2007 to 2013, the mortality for children below the age of 5 reduced from 148 to 104 deaths per 1,000 live births. The country has also been polio-free for over three years- a worthwhile progress given the conflict in the country.

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