A survey in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo found that most of the 1.7 million excess deaths between January 1999 and May 2000 were not from the direct effects of war, but through the destruction and disruption of access to health services, food, clean water, and sanitation, and the breakdown of disease control. In the context of such destruction and mass displacement, ‘war means disease’, and ‘violent deaths and non-violent deaths are inseparable’
Clinical medicine has long been involved with the effects of collective violence, from military surgery to the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The discipline of public health, though, began dealing with the phenomenon only in the 1970s, following the humanitarian crisis in Biafra, Nigeria. The lessons learnt there were the basis for what has become a growing body of knowledge and medical interventions in the field of preventive health care. Public health now plays a key role in the core humanitarian relief activities of health services, health surveillance, shelter, nutrition, water, and sanitation.
This research guide provides a broad overview of some of the key themes, issues, and debates that encompass public health and forced migration, along with a number of references and Web links to sources for further study in this field.