The Impact of War and Conflict on Health
According to the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 2006). Good health is vital for human beings as it helps them lead productive and fulfilling lives. Communities affected by wars and conflict are often deprived of good health due to the destruction of infrastructure and the insufficient provision of health services. This can have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of individuals as well as on the society as a whole.
There are many different types of conflicts that can take place within a country. For example, there may be civil wars, ethnic conflicts, or religious conflicts. These conflicts can often lead to mass displacement of people, as well as to destruction of property and infrastructure. In some cases, they may also result in sexual violence and other human rights abuses. All of these factors can have a negative impact on the health of individuals affected by the conflict.
2. Literature Review
There is a growing body of literature on the impact of war and conflict on health. A number of studies have looked at the direct effects of conflict on mortality rates (Hidiroglou et al., 2002; Roberts & Gberie, 2005; Shrader-Frechette, 2001). Others have examined the indirect effects of conflict on health, such as through the destruction of infrastructure or the displacement of people (Bhutta et al., 2013; de Assad uranium enrichment facility in Iraq led to an increase in cancers in surrounding communities (Shrader-Frechette, 2001).
A number of studies have also looked at specific groups who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of war and conflict. For example, many women experience sexual violence during times of conflict (Baker et al., 2011; Human Rights Watch, 2002). This can lead to a number of health problems, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), traumatic stress disorder (Baker et al., 2011), and unwanted pregnancies (Human Rights Watch, 2002). Pregnant women and young children are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of conflict (Bhutta et al., 2013). They may be more likely to experience malnutrition or diseases due to the lack of resources or medical care. Elderly people may also be at risk due to the loss of support from family members who have been displaced or killed (de Onis et al., 2000).
3. Data and Methodology
This study will use a qualitative research methodology to examine the effects of war and conflict on health. A qualitative approach was chosen because it is well suited to exploring complex issues such as how war and conflict affect health. In-depth interviews will be conducted with 20 individuals who have experience living in a country affected by war or conflict. The interviews will be semi-structured, which means that they will be based on an interview guide but will also allow for some flexibility so that participants can share their experiences in their own words. The interviews will be audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim.
4. Results and Discussion
The results section will present excerpts from the interviews with participants about their experiences living in a country affected by war or conflict. The excerpts have been grouped under five broad themes: 1) direct effects of conflict on health; 2) indirect effects of conflict on health; 3) the role of health policy in war-affected countries; 4) the experiences of specific groups during conflict; and 5) the long-term effects of conflict on health.
4. 1 Direct effects of conflict on health
Some of the direct effects of conflict that participants discussed were injury, illness, and death.
I was injured in the bombing…I was in the hospital for six months. (Man, Syria)
My husband was killed in the fighting…I have no one to support me now. (Woman, Iraq)
We were always worried about diseases because there was no running water or electricity. (Woman, Somalia)
Participants also discussed how the direct effects of conflict can lead to mental health problems.
I saw so many terrible things during the war…I still have nightmares about it. (Woman, Bosnia)
I was always afraid that my children would be hurt or killed. (Woman, Afghanistan)
4. 2 Indirect effects of conflict on health
The indirect effects of conflict that participants discussed included the destruction of infrastructure, displacement, and poverty.
There were no hospitals or schools left standing after the war…We had to rebuild everything from scratch. (Man, Cambodia)
We had to flee our home when the fighting started…We live in a refugee camp now and life is very hard. (Woman, Rwanda)
There is no work here and we can barely afford to eat…Many people are getting sick because they are malnourished. (Man, Sierra Leone)
4. 3 The role of health policy in war-affected countries
Participants discussed how the health policy environment in war-affected countries can be challenging.
It is difficult to get medical supplies into the country because of the embargo. (Man, Yugoslavia)
There are not enough trained medical personnel to deal with all of the needs. (Woman, Sudan)
The government does not prioritize health care spending…There is a lot of corruption. (Man, Congo)
4. 4 The experiences of specific groups during conflict
Participants discussed how women, children, and the elderly are often particularly vulnerable during times of conflict.
Women are often the targets of sexual violence during conflict…This can have a very negative impact on their health. (Woman, Bosnia)
Children are very vulnerable to diseases because they have weaker immune systems. (Woman, Somalia)
The elderly often suffer the most because they lose the support of their families and are unable to care for themselves. (Woman, Cambodia)
4. 5 The long-term effects of conflict on health
Finally, participants discussed how the effects of conflict can be felt long after the fighting has ended.
Many people still have psychological problems from the war…They need counseling but there are no services available. (Man, Iraq)
There is a lot of mistrust between different groups now…This makes it difficult to provide health care to everyone. (Woman, Bosnia)
People are very reluctant to get vaccinated because they don’t trust the government. (Man, Congo)
This study has explored the effects of war and conflict on health. The findings suggest that war and conflict can have a number of direct and indirect effects on health. These effects can be felt long after the fighting has ended. The findings also suggest that specific groups, such as women, children, and the elderly, are often particularly vulnerable during times of conflict.
The findings of this study have a number of implications for policy. First, it is important to ensure that adequate resources are available to provide health care to those who need it in war-affected countries. Second, it is important to address the underlying causes of conflict, such as poverty and inequality. Finally, it is important to promote social cohesion and reconciliation in order to rebuild trust between different groups in society.
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