Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Defence written question – answered on 21st April 2008.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British servicemen and women experienced heat exhaustion in (a) Afghanistan and (b) Iraq in each year since 2006.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence records instances of heat illness, as part of its monitoring of climatic injury. Heat illness has traditionally been divided into heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but in practice it is difficult to define the division between the two. Heat illness is therefore used to cover a continuum of illness ranging from mild symptoms such as muscular weakness, headache and excess fatigue to collapse, coma and death.

In Iraq in 2006, 71 service personnel were recorded with a climatic illness, of whom 21 were bedded down in a medical facility as a result. In 2007, 90 service personnel were recorded with a climatic illness of whom nine were bedded down. In Iraq, the temperature and humidity can change very quickly, increasing the likelihood of sudden instances of heat illness.

In Afghanistan, between August 2006 (when data collection started) and the end of 2007, 91 personnel were recorded with a climatic injury of whom 32 were bedded down.

These figures provide an indication of instances of heat illness. It is likely that there have been other cases of heat injury which could not be identified from the available records as they may have been recorded under a variety of symptoms (e.g. dehydration, headache etc.) common to other illnesses.

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