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655,000: The toll of war in Iraq
Survey suggests violent death rate in Iraq is now running at one every three minutes
The human cost of the war in Iraq could be far higher than previously thought. A new survey says more than 650,000 Iraqis have lost their lives as a consequence of the invasion by the United States and Britain, with an estimated 200,000 violent deaths directly attributable to Allied forces.
The new figure is much larger than all previous estimates - more than 20 times higher than President George Bush claimed 11 months ago - and will add considerable weight to the calls of those seeking a withdrawal of troops.
The 654,965 deaths estimated to have resulted from the invasion represent about 2.5 per cent of the Iraqi population. It means people have been dying at a rate of about 560 a day, equivalent to one death every three minutes, or less
Two years ago, a study by Dr Les Roberts and a team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, estimated that at least 100,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the war. This new survey, conducted by the same team and based on similar methodology but using a larger sample, suggests the situation is getting worse rather than better - a conclusion at odds with claims made by President Bush.
Dr Roberts said: "Yes [this finding was a surprise]. I didn't realise that things there were twice as bad as when we carried out our first survey in 2004. I did not know it was that much." Dr Roberts said he expected there would be many who would seek to undermine the report, as happened two years ago. But he said: "Let's have these people tell us what we have done wrong and what the true numbers are. Our study is pretty easy to verify. If they go to a graveyard in a small village and ask how many people are being put in the ground..."
The survey was overseen by epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. Epidemiology is considered a cornerstone methodology for public health research, and is highly regarded in evidence-based medicine.
The study, published by The Lancet, was based on a survey of 1,849 households at 47 random locations in Iraq this summer. A team of Iraqi doctors asked heads of households how many members had lost their lives in the year before the invasion in March 2003 and then in the three subsequent years.
In 92 per cent of the 87 per cent of households where the questioners asked to see death certificates, the households were able to provide them.
The findings were then extrapolated to match the total estimated population of Iraq. The survey concluded Iraq's mortality rate has increased from 5.5 people per 1,000 prior to the invasion to 13.3 in the period since.