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With 11 weeks, the War in Ukraine has claimed at least 3,573 civilian casualties, according to the most recent UN survey. The organization itself, however, admits that the numbers are underestimated and could include thousands more dead.
In today’s edition, we explain how the accounting of victims in a war is difficult, can generate controversy and can be used as a strategy by the countries involved in the conflict.
How to count victims? In ongoing wars, the process involves data collection in hospitals, health care centers and official bodies of the parties involved in the conflict, explains professor at Unip and researcher at the Research Network on Peace, Conflicts and Critical Security Studies Kimberly Digolin .
- The most reliable figures are usually those released by international bodies and independent non-governmental organizations.
- The main difficulty in the data collection process is the lack of secure access to conflict sites.
In Ukraine: most civilian deaths were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide area of impact, such as missiles and air strikes, according to the UN.
The peak of deaths was recorded in the 9th week of the conflict, from 22 to 28 April, and may be related to the beginning of the Russian offensive for control of the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
The actual number of victims, however, is much higher than the official one, according to the UN itself. “They [as vítimas] thousands more than the numbers we currently give,” said the head of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission, Matilda Bogner.
There is another data that is not included in the statistics of losses as a direct result of the bombings: that of residents who die because they cannot access the health system during the conflict.
- The European arm of the World Health Organization reports there is a “health emergency” in Ukraine;
- At least 3,000 chronic patients have died in the country since February without treatment, according to the UN.
And the military? They do not enter the UN statistics. Identifying casualties in this group would be even simpler, explains professor of Contemporary History at UFRJ Francisco Carlos Teixeira da Silva.
- “Military personnel are easily accounted for, they are enlisted, they are part of regular armies. When they stop fighting, the Army knows immediately.”
Yes but… These data are almost always omitted. It is common for forces on either side to refuse to disclose their losses.
- “There is a negative psychological effect in an Army disclosing its number of casualties. This impacts its population and the morale of the troop itself”, says the UFRJ professor.
Do not get lost
Recall numbers of victims in conflicts still ongoing in different parts of the world:
Myanmar (since 2021): more than a year after the military took control of the country in a coup d’état, the internal conflict continues. By February, more than 1,500 deaths were estimated.
Yemen (since 2014): considered by the UN, in 2021, the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world, the war in the country lasts for seven years and killed more than 300 thousand people.
Syrian War (since 2011): in the conflict that began with protests and repression and lasted more than ten years, estimates of casualties vary. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed at least 380,000 victims by 2021, but estimates the number could be even higher and reach nearly 600,000.