Expert group meeting on mortality crises: conflicts, violence, famine, natural disasters and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases

New York

14 November 2011 to 15 November 2011


The Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs organized an expert group meeting to address issues associated with the estimation and projection of mortality levels in context of humanitarian crises, including conflicts, violence, famine and natural disasters as well as in respect to the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The meeting was held at the United Nations in New York from 14 to 15 November 2011.

Participants reviewed the latest evidence of crises that cause significant rises in mortality levels and discussed to initiate how such evidence could inform the preparation of mortality estimates by the Population Division. The meeting also considered trends in mortality from NCDs with a view to informing assumptions about future mortality trends.


Organization of work

Monday, 14 November 2011


Opening session

  • Hania Zlotnik, Director, Population Division. Opening remarks
  • François Pelletier, Population Division. Introduction to mortality crisis



Session 1: Mortality estimation in the context of conflicts,violence, famine and natural disasters


a. Mortality estimation in the  context of conflicts and violence

  • Gregg Greenough, Harvard School of Public Health. Challenges in collecting reliable data from areas in conflict and measuring mortality 
  • Les Roberts, Columbia University. Mortality due to the conflict in Iraq 
  • Andrew Mack, Simon Fraser University. Mortality due to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 
  • Discussant: Jon Pedersen, FAFO. 


  • Patrick Heuveline, University of California, Los Angeles. Mortality due to the conflict in Cambodia
  • Helge Brunborg, Statistics Norway. Mortality due to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
  • Roberto Briceño León, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS). Mortality due to violence in Latin America 
  • Discussion and questions



 b. Mortality estimation in the context of famine and natural disasters

  • Tim Dyson, London School of Economics. Famine mortality 
  • Shannon Doocy, Johns Hopkins University. Mortality patterns during the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean 
  • Gregg Greenough, Harvard School of Public Health. Patterns in injuries and mortality caused by earthquakes: evidence from the EM-DAT database
  • Discussion and questions


  • Colin Mathers, World Health Organization. The WHO approach for assessing mortality shocks: estimating additional deaths caused by conflicts and disasters 
  • Brainstorming session on methodological issues: There is a need to define best practices, harmonise tools and adopt a more standardised approach for estimating mortality in crisisaffected populations. Discussion will aim at providing a set of guidelines to develop consistent methods to generate country-level mortality estimates considering a variety of crisis contexts 
  • Moderator: Jon Pedersen, FAFO 


  • François Pelletier, Population Division . Concluding remarks


Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Session 2: The growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)



  • Cheryl Sawyer, Population Division. Introduction 



a. The World Health Organization estimates

  • Colin Mathers, World Health Organization. WHO data and methods for estimating incidence, prevalence and mortality for non-communicable diseases at the global, regional and country levels 
  • Colin Mathers, World Health Organization. The WHO procedure for estimating the prevalence and population attributable risk of NCD risk factors at the global, regional and country levels 
  • Discussion and questions



b. Linking NCD risk factors to mortality

  • Samuel Preston, University of Pennsylvania. The impact of tobacco use on mortality 

  • David Leon, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The impact of alcohol use on mortality 

  • Katherine Flegal, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The impact of obesity on mortality 

  • Discussion and questions



c. Country-level trends in NCDS and risk factors

  • Youfa Wang, Johns Hopkins University. Obesity in China 

  • Flavia Andrade, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Diabetes in Latin America and the Caribbean 

  • Discussion and questions



Closing session

  • François Pelletier, Population Division. Concluding remarks


* See report.