Wars threaten health of 600 million women and children – dpa international




Kids head home from one the few schools in Blue Nile in Sudan in early 2011 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Protracted and messy wars mean over 600 million women and children worldwide struggle to access essential health care, according to estimates published in The Lancet medical journal.

By 2019, the authors wrote, there were 54 “state-based armed conflicts” in 35 countries – wars that had lasted an average of two decades and presented a “growing threat to humanitarian access and the delivery of essential health services, affecting at least 630 million women and children.”

The research team, from nine institutions, including Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, estimated that by 2017, 10 per cent of the world’s women and 6 per cent of children “were either forcibly displaced or living dangerously close to conflict zones.”

From 2009-17, the number of women and children displaced by fighting jumped from around 30 million to over 50 million, with factors such as “population growth, more conflicts, increasing use of explosive and chemical weapons in urban areas” driving the rise, much of it in high-population countries such as India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Wars, the researchers said, are increasingly characterized by “a lack of respect for International Humanitarian Law” and tarnished by “the systematic use of explosive and chemical weapons in cities [and] pervasive sexual violence against women and girls” – in turn bringing “new challenges to humanitarian access, the delivery of health services, and the protection of humanitarian workers and health facilities from attack.”

“It is clear that the indirect effects of armed conflict on women and children are far greater than the effects of actual fighting,” said co-author Dr Hala Ghattas of the American University of Beirut.

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