'Violence claims a life a minute'

GENEVA OCT. 3. Violence kills more than 1.6 million people every year. In addition to the deaths, millions are left injured as a result of violence and suffer from physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems, says the first comprehensive World Report on Violence and Health released by the World Health Organisation. Public health experts say the majority of violent acts are committed behind closed doors and go unreported. This report aims to shed light on these facts.

Death and disability caused by violence makes it one of the leading public health issues of our time, says the report. Violence is among the leading causes of death for people aged between 15 and 44 years, accounting for 14 per cent of deaths among males and 7 per cent among females. On an average day, 1,424 people are killed in acts of homicide — almost one person every minute. Roughly one person commits suicide every 40 seconds. About 35 people are killed every hour in armed conflict. In the 20th century, 19.1 crore people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians.

Studies have shown that in some countries, health care expenditures due to violence account for upto 5 per cent of the GDP. ``The report challenges us in many respects. It forces us to reach beyond our notions of what is acceptable and comfortable — to challenge notions that acts of violence are simply matters of family privacy, individual choice, or inevitable facets of life'' said Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO, while releasing the report. The report is the first comprehensive review of the problem of violence at the global level. It focuses not only on the scale of the problem, but also covers issues related to the causes of violence and the methods for preventing it and reducing its adverse health and social consequences. In addition to the familiar issues of collective violence such as war or conflict, the report examines equally significant yet frequently overlooked issues such as youth violence, child abuse, elderly abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and self-inflicted violence or suicides.

Women often face the greatest risk at home and in familiar settings, says the report. Almost half the women victims are killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends, while in some countries it can be as high as 70 per cent. While exact numbers are hard to come by, available data suggest that nearly one in four women experiences sexual violence by an intimate partner in her lifetime.

Abuse of the elderly is one of the most hidden faces of violence, according to the report.

The statistics are chilling but the situation is far from hopeless, say the experts.

Among the recommendations for prevention made by the report are primary prevention responses such as pre-school and social development programmes for children and adolescents, parent training and support programmes and measures to reduce firearm injuries and improve firearm safety.

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