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Expert comment on study showing Arab uprising had long-term effect on health of people in the region

Wars in the eastern Mediterranean that followed the 2010 Arab uprising have had serious detrimental effects on the health and life expectancy of the people living in many of the 22 countries in the region, according to a new study published in The Lancet Global Health.

This major analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, found that the war in Syria had erased six years off male life expectancy by 2013. It also showed that conflicts threaten to jeopardise health gains made over the past two decades and will impact on the region and worldwide for many years.

In Syria infant deaths fell at an average of 6.0% a year in the decade before 2010 in sharp contrast to the rise of 9.1% a year between 2010 and 2013.

So how precisely has the Syrian conflict impacted the country's health system? Dr Karl Blanchet, Director of the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, explains:

"This research highlights the devastating effect that conflicts in the eastern Mediterranean are having on the health of people in the region.

"The health system in Syria used to be well structured and organised, with mechanisms in place to ensure universal coverage and reduce health inequities. War has been devastating both for combatants and civilians. Sadly, but not unsurprisingly, the lives of children are particularly affected.

"Access to healthcare has been dramatically reduced due to security reasons. Many health professionals have left the country and migrated to Western countries, Turkey or Lebanon. War has contributed to increased morbidity and mortality in Syria and forced more than two million Syrians out of their country. But what is unique about this conflict is the high number of attacks on healthcare staff, hospitals and humanitarians.

"In humanitarianism history, there will always be a before-Syria period and an after-Syria period."

Read Dr Blanchet's blog on the Conversation which asks, what has happened to the traditional humanitarian system?

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