International health experts call on Prime Minister to consider health impacts of war on Iraq

January 23, 2003

A war on Iraq would have disastrous short, medium and long-term social and public health consequences - not just for Iraq, but internationally, argue 500 signatories of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in an open letter to Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

This letter is published simultaneously in this week's issue of the BMJ and the Lancet.

The letter highlights three reports published in the last month on the humanitarian impacts of international violence and conflict. All provide evidence of the short and long-term adverse health impacts of the use of force internationally.

Medact estimate that if the threatened war on Iraq ensues, total possible deaths on all sides during conflict and in the following three months range from 48,000 to over 260,000. The most recent UN report also estimates substantial and wide-reaching humanitarian impacts. But the most worrying impact of the use of force in Iraq and internationally, say the authors, is in its role as an escalator of collective violence - the instrumental use of violence in order to achieve political, economic or social objectives. WHO reports that such collective use of force has long term negative impacts on stability and social wellbeing.

"Health professionals worldwide care for the casualties of war. We accept this responsibility. However, it is also our responsibility to argue for prevention of violence and peaceful resolution of conflict, write the authors.

"Our experience and evidence corroborate the views of the World Health Organisation, the United Nations and Medact. We oppose the use of military intervention in Iraq. We hope this letter contributes to informed discussion amongst members of the Government and the public. We also intend this statement to support all those who are opposed to military action on ethical and humanitarian grounds, not originating from any political or religious view point," they conclude.


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