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Public health lessons we must learn from the wars


Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Allied Health and Social Care
Course: BSc (Hons) Public Health
Category: Health

7 March 2022

There is one word with a very deep meaning and history that is sometimes difficult to say. War is a word that doesn't make people smile or feel better. It doesn't matter where, when and between who.

Illustrations of a soldier, a dove, and two parents with a baby, and the words 'Lessons We Must Learn From The Wars'

It doesn't matter where, when and between who. The conflict could involve friends, family, countries and even animals. Unfortunately, it never brings anything good, most of the time it only results in unpleasant memories. The scariest thing is that after a war between countries and people, we can't get back the most important thing: people's lives.

Millions of people have died in the past world wars and other armed conflicts. War also destroys industries, economies, governments, and infrastructures. And is difficult to say, but it can get even scarier when the war is over. History has proved to us many times that conflicts continue to kill after fighting ends.

Healthcare, shelter with sanitation, food and water, imagine if all this disappeared. All populations will be exposed to deadly infections. War weakens the national immune system and leads to devastating outbreaks of the disease.


A deadly flu virus appeared in the last few months of World War I. Four years of war weakened the world's population, so they were massively affected by pandemic flu. Up to 100 million people died because of this severe virus. This is more deaths than two world wars combined. It is considered one of the biggest pandemics in human history.


A cholera outbreak occurred among Rwandan refugees in Congo DR. After the genocide in Rwanda, millions of refugees went to Congo DR. Because of overcrowded camps, poor sanitation, and cholera in the first months of the epidemic, around 40,000 people died.


Civil wars in West Africa have destroyed their healthcare system. In Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, many hospitals were destroyed. After the war in 2013, those countries didn't have a well-developed health system. People couldn't secure proper sanitation, and there were not enough medics.

In 2014, when the Ebola virus occurred, these countries weren't prepared at all. In Liberia, there were only 50 doctors for a population of 4.5 million. The Ebola outbreak took more than 11,000 people's lives.


Civil wars in Yemen ruined most of the regulatory systems. According to the World Food Programme, more than 16.2 million people in the country are food insecure. Malnutrition often leads to death. Poor sanitation and no access to clean water caused a cholera outbreak in Yemen. More than 1.2 million cases of cholera were registered in the country.

As I mentioned at the beginning, armed conflicts cause devastating results such as deaths and injuries, but the consequences when people do not have shelter, access to health services, sanitation, clean water and food will lead to infectious disease outbreaks. We also need to not forget that if the health system is destroyed, patients with cancer, mental health, cardiovascular problems and more won't be treated.

Even when the war is over, and the country is in recovery, the thing you can’t remove from the mind is the memory that will affect people all their lives. These historical events have taught us over and over again that the war leads to horrific outcomes. We must learn from those lessons to protect our families, ourselves and children and have a bright future and life.

Deividas is studying Public Health at ARU in Chelmsford. To find out more about our degree courses and student life at ARU, book your place at an Open Day.



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