Military surgery in Rwanda

Glendon B. Farrow, Jeffrey V. Rosenfeld, John A. Crozier, Peter Wheatley, Peter Warfe

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In April of 1994, a vicious civil war erupted in Rwanda, with more than 500 000 people massacred by extremist militias. The second United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR II) deployed in August 1994 to monitor the ceasefire, with an Australian Defence Force Contingent of Health Service Support consisting of staff for the UNAMIR Headquarters, and the Australian Medical Support Force (AS MSF). Methods: A retrospective audit was conducted of all operative surgery performed during the year-long deployment, in the AS MSF operating theatres. Results: Twenty surgeons rotated through in 6-week intervals. A total of 750 operations were performed on 547 patients, of which 636 (84.8%) involved civilians. A total of 558 (74.4%) cases were the result of trauma both accidental (38.4%) and war related (36%). The mean age of patients was 21.7 years. The age distribution was skewed, with 289 (38.5%) cases being performed on children. General surgeons performed a wide range of surgery, covering the majority of surgical specialties. These included cardiothoracic, neurosurgical, vascular and paediatric cases. Orthopaedic surgeons dealt with amputations, debridements and skin grafting in addition to bony injuries and infections. Children formed a substantial number of those treated, and required surgery for war-related injuries significantly more often than adults. Conclusions: Surgeons involved in future peacekeeping missions should be aware of the broad variety of clinical problems encountered, and undertake refresher training in the sub-specialties. Children are at great risk of violence in war, and if a civilization can be judged by the protection it affords its helpless, the Rwandan genocide and ensuing civil war represents a horrific example of the opposite extreme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-702
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Blast injuries
  • Child welfare
  • Military medicine
  • Rwanda
  • Trauma
  • United Nations

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