It often takes military intervention to halt genocide. But health data also might help—by providing markers that show a population’s risk of being genocide victims.
Researchers at North Carolina State University examined skeletal remains of 142 males from the Srebenica massacre in 1995. Eight thousand Bosnian men and boys were killed there. The scientists found evidence of a number of diseases that are related to maternal malnutrition and poor prenatal care. One of them is spina bifida, which occurred in a higher proportion in this group and is related to poor nutrition.
The researchers were able to also compare these data to survivors of the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides, and the numbers are consistent. The results seem to demonstrate that the victim population had been marginalized and denied access to nutrition and health care even before the genocide took place. The work will appear in the journal Forensic Science Policy and Management. [Ashley Maxwell and Ann H. Ross, "Epidemiology of Genocide: An Example from the Former Yugoslavia"]
The study authors say that this information gives another tool to politicians and international bodies. By evaluating the health of a given at-risk population, they may be able to identify a marginalized group, and mobilize international efforts to prevent a genocide from ever beginning.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]