Issue Brief on Health

Sunday, January 1, 2006
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

Armed conflicts have been major causes of disease, suffering and death for much of human history. The fatalities, injuries and disabilities suffered on the battlefield are obviously direct effects of conflict. But there are also health consequences from the breakdown of services and from population movements. The diverting of human and financial resources away from public health and other social goods contributes to the spread of disease. These indirect consequences of war may remain for many years after a conflict ends. Both the experience of conflict itself and the impact of conflict on access to health care determine the physical health and the psychological well-being of women and girls in very particular ways. Women are not only victims of the general violence and lack of health care – they also face issues specific to their biology and to their social status. To add to the complexity of the picture, women also carry the burden of caring for others, including those who are sick, injured, elderly or traumatized. This in itself is stressful and often contributes to illness.

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