Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Civilian deaths from weapons used in the Syrian conflict

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 29 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4736
Weapons of war
View an interactive graphic showing the impact of different weapon types on civilian men, women, and children in Syria.

Rapid Response:

Re: Civilian deaths from weapons used in the Syrian conflict

Why is this article trying to hide the actual numbers and only showing relative risks? By using relative risk given that the subject is already dead, you do not take into account the total number of deaths.

"[We] found that the likelihoods of death were significantly higher for children than for men for air bombardments, shells, ground level explosives, and chemical weapons"

The authors make it sound as if more children die from these causes than men. Your actual data are children vs men for air bombardments 3945 vs 8675, for shells 5598 vs 16747, for explosives 464 vs 1750 and for chemical weapons 128 vs 544 (from Appendix B of the article).

"Women were significantly more likely to die from chemical intoxication (4.72 (3.93 to 5.67)) than men, as were children (2.11, 1.69 to 2.63). Our findings indicate that the use of chemical weapons in NSAG controlled areas was particularly harmful to women and children"

Again, from your own numbers: 128 children, 297 women and 544 men. How is that "particularly harmful to women and children"?

Imagine a hypothetical scenario with 1 child and 10 men dead. If the child and 5 of the men had been stabbed, the other 5 men died from other causes. Is the risk of getting stabbed really twice as high if you are a child?


Competing interests: No competing interests

03 October 2015
Martin Gustafsson
Forselius Gata, Gothenburg