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Gulf War 2 (Iraq) and Afghanistan health issues

Multiple vaccinations were/are still used to protect military personnel whilst overseas, but not the number and combinations with anti nerve gas and biological agents that were used in Gulf War 1. However, at the start of Gulf War 2 (Iraq), for a short period of time, some personnel did receive a very similar cocktail of vaccinations, with some personnel now having health problems as a direct consequence.

Another significant issue, until UK involvement in Gulf War 2 (Iraq) ended, was that the simultaneous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan required military personnel to be deployed to both conflicts. With limited resources (i.e. "undermanned forces"), this resulted in frequent combat tours with intervals much less than the recommended two-year gap between missions overseas. Tours of duty were also extended and there was a shortage of time for rest and retraining. This "unacceptable" pressure of constant tours overseas has had a significant consequence upon the psychological health of military personnel and on many soldiers' marriages. (For more information, see

For the majority of Gulf War 2 (Iraq), the UK force’s role has been a peacekeeping one with operations against guerrillas/insurgents, with the aim being to support stabilisation and reconstruction in that country. Unlike Gulf War 2 (Iraq), the continuing military operations in Afghanistan have officially been a peacekeeping activity from the outset. Such peacekeeping activities have their own "unique stresses" which, if not addressed, can result in long term psychiatric consequences.

In both Gulf War 2 (Iraq) and Afghanistan there have been significant numbers of casualties from these peacekeeping activities. In Afghanistan, in addition to nearly 200 deaths (as of July 2009) since 2001 (compared to approximately 180 in Gulf War 2 (Iraq) and over 20 in Gulf War 1), there have also been nearly 250 personnel with "life-changing injuries", e.g. amputations. A further 400 or more military personnel have also been assessed as having a psychological disorder on their return to the UK.

Gulf War 2 (Iraq) and Afghanistan Issues:

  1. Vaccinations - early Gulf War 2 (Iraq)
  2. Organophosphates
  3. Depleted Uranium (DU)
  4. Physical Trauma
    • Heat exhaustion
    • Injury
    • Inadequate supplies, protective clothing and equipment
  5. Psychological Trauma
    • Peace keeping activities
    • Guerrilla warfare (roadside attacks etc.) - Hyper-vigilance
    • Loss of comrades
    • Inadequate supplies, protective clothing and equipment
    • Frequent tours - shortage of rest and retraining
  6. Marriage/family breakdown
  7. Substance misuse - drugs and alcohol
  8. Risk taking behaviour/activities
  9. Suicide/attempted suicide

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Medical and legal disclaimer
The information and advice published or made available through the NGVFA web site is not an exhaustive list as reports and research are developing and changing every day. Please be aware that this information is not intended to replace the services and advice of a doctor. Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. You should consult a doctor in all matters relating to your health, and particularly in respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. The NGVFA is not liable for any direct or indirect claim, loss or damage resulting from use of this web site and/or any web site(s) linked to/from it.

This page last updated : January 2013

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