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The unnumbered dead


CONGO-DEMOCRATICThe simple answer to the question of how many people died in Congo’s civil war is “too many”.

Trying to get a realistic figure is fraught with difficulties and a new report suggests that a widely used estimate of 5.4 million dead – potentially making Congo the deadliest conflict since World War Two – is hugely inaccurate and that the loss of life may be less than half that.

The aid group that came up with the original estimate unsurprisingly says the new report is wrong.

The problem is the way estimates are reached.

One way is to do a body count, but that is next to impossible in a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Very few of the victims are shot, blown up or otherwise die as a result of violence. Most succumb to disease or malnutrition. But then who died as a result of the war and who would have died anyway in a country where survival is normally so tough?