The British Guardian Newspaper: United Nations Working Sordid, Politicized Body Counts in Yemen




The British Guardian newspaper has revealed that the United Nations and humanitarian organizations working in Yemen have been manipulating the number of civilian deaths since the start of the Saudi-led coalition war in March 2015 and continue to show the sordid and politicized nature of body counts.

Counting the bodies in conflicts is a necessary, confusing and too often sordid business. Numbers supply a moral reference point. They tell us about the scale of a conflict as well as if civilians were targeted and how. They provide evidence for different kinds of human rights advocacy in an international setting, and assist in setting policy for emergency assistance.

Official UN statistics put the death toll in Yemen as of March 2018 at 6,592, with 10,470 people injured. International organizations say the number of deaths is somewhere between 56,000 and 80,000 deaths. Each side accuses the other of reducing or inflating numbers to suit their own agenda.

The problem – as the current conflict in Yemen is demonstrating, and the Iraq war showed before – is that counting the cost of war is a far from exact science. Not least when it comes to the often fraught reckoning of a figure that can include both direct casualties of violence and those who have died from conflict’s secondary effects, such as limited access to health care.

The issue was dramatised again this week by the clumsy and one-sided intervention of Graham Jones, the Labour chair of the Commons committees on arms export controls (CAEC), who unintentionally underlined the difficulty of estimating mortality in conflict – in this case, civilian deaths from Saudi-coalition airstrikes.

Source: the Guardian British newspaper