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Firearms used in half of global homicides says new WHO report

December 11, 2014

WHO-report-2014Reducing access to guns one of “best buys” for reducing violence

Firearms were used in about half of the 475,000 murders committed worldwide in 2012, according to the new Global status report on violence prevention 2014 released yesterday by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (U.N.) Development Programme (UNDP), and the U.N. Office of Crime and Drugs (UNODC). Sixty percent of those killed were males aged 15-44, “making homicide the third leading cause of death for males in this age group.” Rates of firearm use in homicides varied quite a bit between regions, ranging from a high of 75% of all homicides in the low-middle-income countries in the Americas, to 25% in the same income-level countries in Europe.

This major report on the worldwide state of violence includes good news and bad news. It reports that homicide rates worldwide declined 16% from 2000-2012. For some countries, however, from Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the news is not so positive. Killing has escalated in El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Bolivia, Egypt, Myanmar, Kenya, and Swaziland, among others. Some countries, such as the United States (U.S.), have seen relatively flat but still significant homicide rates over the past decade, with the vast majority of murders in the U.S. committed with guns. In many low income countries, such as Nigeria and the Sudan, data on weapons used in homicides, and homicide trends, are not even available.

Homicides are only the tip of the global problem of violence, a public health crisis which permeates all aspects of life and impedes social and economic development. “For every violence-related death there are many more individuals who seek emergency treatment for an injury sustained from an act of interpersonal violence,” says the report. Violence has serious, life-long, and far-reaching consequences for survivors as well as their families and communities. It costs countries billions of U.S. dollars each year in health care, law enforcement, and lost productivity.

Women and girls bear a huge burden of non-fatal violence. One in five girls has been sexually abused, and one in three women has been a victim of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence at some point in her lifetime. Violence contributes to leading causes of death such as cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS.

What can be done?

Preventing violence is the key and is the central goal of IPPNW’s Aiming for Prevention program.
Reducing access to guns and knives is one of the seven “best buy” strategies outlined by WHO to “reduce multiple types of violence and help decrease the likelihood of individuals perpetrating violence or becoming a victim.”

“The consequences of violence on families and communities are profound, and can result in lifelong ill health for those affected,” states Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “Yet we know what works to prevent violence in our homes, schools and workplaces and on our streets and playgrounds. We should take inspiration from governments which have demonstrated success in reducing violence by taking the steps needed. They have shown us that indeed violence is preventable.”

The new report for the first time evaluates the extent to which countries have been implementing the recommendations of the landmark 2002 WHO World report on violence and health, and highlights gaps in programs and policies that if filled would help stem the tide of violence. For example, it reveals that availability of services to identify, refer, protect and support victims of violence varies markedly among countries surveyed.

It includes data collected by WHO from 133 countries over the past two years and features the results in a series of one-page country profiles.
The report:
• Describes the state of the problem of interpersonal violence worldwide;
• Documents the extent to which countries are collecting data on fatal and non-fatal violence;
• Includes numbers, trends on homicides;
• Describes status of:
–programs, policies and laws to prevent violence,
–health care, social and legal services for victims; and
• Identifies gaps in national and international responses to violence.

This snapshot of the state of interpersonal violence prevention in each country serves:
• As a benchmark for countries to assess their violence prevention efforts;
• As a baseline to track future progress in violence prevention internationally;
• To identify gaps in national responses to violence that need to be addressed; and
• To catalyze further prevention action.
Its ultimate aim is to strengthen Member States’ capacity to prevent violence.

More information:
Executive Summary

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