Central America world's top region for violent deaths: UN

GENEVA (AFP) - Despite the bloody conflicts raging in the Middle East, Central America remains the region with the highest number of violent deaths worldwide, a UN report showed Friday.

The Global Burden of Armed Violence report, published every four or five years, charts violent fatalities linked to conflict and other reasons across the world.

The latest edition tracked deaths between 2007 and 2012.

"At least 508,000 people died annually as a result of lethal violence in the period 2007-2012," the report said, adding that the total figure for the period was over three million.

"Almost three-quarters of these deaths were recorded as intentional homicides, while only 14 percent of the total occurred in conflict settings," it said.

Nearly half of the homicides were caused by firearms, the report added.

The first such report was published in 2008 and the second in 2011, which covered the period between 2004 and 2009. In that report too Central America topped the table.

The number of violent fatalities in Central America swelled from 29 per 100,000 population between 2004-2009 to 33.6 in the latest period reviewed, the report said.

Much of this was linked to drug trafficking in the region's Northern Triangle comprising El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Southern Africa was a close second at 27.4 violent deaths per 100,000 population in 2004-2009 and 31.2 in the current period.

South Africa is considered to be one of the world's most violence-prone countries but there was a marked reduction in lethal violence in the country during that period, the report showed.

The report is published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative launched by Switzerland and the UNDP in 2006 with the goal of sizeably reducing armed violence by 2015.

Two Central American countries - Honduras, which notched up 90.4 violent deaths per 100,000 population, and Venezuela, which recorded 72.2 such deaths - are considered to be among the world's most dangerous countries, according to the UN.

They ranked second and third in the list of countries with the highest rate of such violence in 2012, the report said.

The top spot went to Syria with 180.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2012, after an uprising a year earlier against President Bashar al-Assad's regime morphed into a civil war.

"In stark contrast, Syria's average for the period 2007-12 is 36.3, a figure mitigated by low rates from before the outbreak of the civil war," the report said.