BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

The Threats of War-torn Regions to Global Health



In 2014, over 140,000 people died from armed conflicts. This figure only accounts for direct combat-related deaths. Consequently, the figures would be much higher (probably millions) if deaths from all forms of conflicts and wars were accounted for. The health implications of war extend beyond battlefields, into communities, usually with devastating results. Although men are more likely to be killed during wars, women and children often suffer lasting impacts and trauma. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are accompanied by wars, and are frequently used as weapons of war. Sexual violence results in deep psychological trauma, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and long-term physical damage.

The health effects of conflicts and wars seem pretty obvious and are well documented in research studies. In Nigeria, conflict groups have continued to clash, killing innocent citizens in various communities- the most recent incident being the unfortunate massacre in Plateau State in June, 2018. This creates fear, trauma and poor mental health across the country. In South Sudan, a country ruined by decades of conflict, girls are more likely to die in childbirth than they are to finish primary school. In Syria, rates of caesarean section – which increases many risks for both mother and baby – have risen as women refuse to have normal delivery in conflict-prone areas. During these conflicts, there have been occasions where premature babies die in incubators due to hospital power outage. Lack of power and the degradation of health services also imply disruptions in vaccinations programs, exposing susceptible individuals to previously rare diseases. For instance, the first case of polio in Syria for 15 years was confirmed in October 2013 following a decline in immunizations due to civil war. In Pakistan, health officials report insecurity as a major barrier to ending polio as 80% of new cases occurring in the war torn regions.

War and conflict are sure to result in tragedies including loss of lives, injuries, anxiety, mental distress, famine, mal-nutrition, damage to the environment, drainage of human and financial resources, fostering of a culture of violence, internal displacement and disease outbreaks. In the face of war, normally unthreatening and preventable diseases such as diarrhea and cholera become a big threat to health and life; chronic illnesses that can usually be managed and treated without pain aggravate to severe suffering; while pregnancy and childbirth become incredibly dangerous. As health systems fail during wars, maternal and newborn health indicators- which reflect a country’ overall health system performance- deteriorate significantly. This means increase in infant and maternal mortality rates. In general, peace begets good health. Conflict and war are overwhelming and may reduce people’s coping capacity, safety and access to food, medicines, medical supplies, safe and clean drinking water, sanitation, shelter and health services.

The mental health impacts of war are also challenging, traumas form near death experiences and loss of loved ones can have significant health impacts on survivors. Crowding in temporary shelters and poor hygienic situations increase the risk of waterborne disease outbreaks such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery. To reduce the negative health impacts of wars and minimize the risks of disease and death, priority must be given to ensuring that civilians can access their basic needs in the midst of war. Such needs include:

  • Adequate and safe drinking water
  • Hygiene and sanitation
  • medical supplies and treatment
  • Access to basic continuing health care for persons with special needs and vulnerable populations including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and chronically ill or disabled persons.

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