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Math Trek

Humanitarian Statistics

Statistical tools help guide responses to human rights crises

12:33pm, March 25, 2008

In late 2006, a statistical study of deaths that occurred after the invasion of Iraq ignited a storm of controversy. This Lancet study estimated that more than 650,000 additional Iraqis died during the invasion than would have at pre-invasion death rates, a vastly higher estimate than any previous. But in January, a World Health Organization study placed the number at about 150,000.

The conflicting findings highlight just how difficult it is to gather reliable information in a war zone. But they also show the increasing involvement of statisticians in informing responses to humanitarian crises. In addition to the work in Iraq, statisticians have gathered evidence that has aided in the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, guided repar

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