Overpopulation Doesn’t Kill People, War Kills People

A study in the January 7 edition of The Lancet claims that the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo is killing as many as 38,000 people each month, largely by magnifying the levels of malnutrition and preventable disease in that country.

Based on surveys conducted in 19,500 homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo conducted from April-July 2004, the researchers concluded there were an excess of 600,000 deaths during that period that would not have occurred in the absence of the civil war.

An estimated 4 million people have died in the DRC since fighting began in 1998.

By the Lancet’s measure, the civil war in DRC is the single deadliest humanitarian crisis in the world at the moment, and yet receives comparatively little coverage or focus. As the study’s lead author Richard Brennan told the BBC,

Congo is the deadliest crisis anywhere in the world over the past 60 years. Ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal and international engagement remains completely out of proportion to humanitarian need.

The backdrop of DRC’s civil war goes back to the Hutu/Tutsi conflict that led to genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Fearing that Congo leader Mobutu Sese Seko was not doing enough to stop Hutus in the DRC that Rwanda believe were planning attacks against Tutsis, Rwanda and Uganda backed Laurent Kabila’s successful coup against Mobutu. When Kabila turned on his supporters and attempted to expel Rwanda military forces in 1998, a civil war developed that soon involved 9 African nations in what has been called Africa’s world war.

There have been a series of truces and cease-fires, but violence has proceeded largely unabated.


The Lancet Publishes IRC Mortality Study from DR Congo; 3.9 Million Have Died: 38,000 Die per Month. Press Release, International Rescue Committee, January 6, 2006.

‘Thousands’ dying in DR Congo war. The BBC, January 6, 2006.