Ongoing Wars and Conflicts in the World Today

The worst ongoing wars in 2021 are in Afghanistan, Yemen and Mexico….

It is sad to say, but there are currently ongoing wars or minor conflicts in around three dozen countries, most of them in the Middle East, North West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and a major ongoing drug-war in Mexico.

Wikipedia lists around 40 ongoing wars and conflicts with over 100 combat deaths in 2020 or 2021. NB Wikipedia is a useful starting point for this topic as it provides us with a statistical and historical overview which is relatively easy to understand, but keep in mind that you’ll need to verify sources and check up on how valid the data is!.

Map of Conflicts in the world today

See (1) below for source

Categorising Wars and Conflicts…

Wikipedia categorises ongoing conflicts as follows:

  • Major wars, with over 10 000 direct conflict deaths in the current or previous year – there are three of these: in Afghanistan, Yemen and the Tigray conflict in Sudan/ Ethiopia.
  • Minor wars, with 1000 to 9999 deaths in the current or past year – there are around 12 of these.
  • Minor Conflicts, with 100 to 999 deaths in the current or past year – around a further two dozen fall into this category.
  • They also list ‘minor skirmishes’ which have resulted in 1 to 99 deaths.

A point of note is that the Mexican Drug War actually had the highest death toll in 2020 – with over 50 000 deaths, but it’s not classified as a ‘major war’ because most of those deaths are murders rather than as a result of direct armed conflict between the drugs gangs and the Mexican armed forces.

Examples of recent and ongoing conflicts (list taken from Wiki)

ConflictDeath TollYearsCombatantsCountries
Rwandan genocide800,000April–July 1994Hutu people vs. Tutsi RebelsRwanda
First Congo War250,000–800,0001996–1997Zaire and allies vs. AFDL and alliesCongo
Second Congo War2,500,000–5,400,0001998–2003See Second Congo WarCentral Africa
Ituri conflict60,000+1999–2003Lendu Tribe vs. Hemu Tribe and alliesCongo
War on Terror272,000–1,260,0002001–presentAnti-Terrorist Forces vs. Terrorist groupsWorldwide
War in Afghanistan47,000–62,0002001–presentsee War in Afghanistan (2001–present)Afghanistan
Iraq War405,000–654,9652003–2011See Iraq WarIraq
War in Darfur300,000+2003–presentSRF and allies vs. Sudan and allies vs. UNAMIDSudan
Kivu Conflict100,000+2004–presentsee Kivu ConflictCongo
War in North-West Pakistan45,900–79,0002004–2017Pakistan, USA, and UK vs. Terrorist groupsPakistan
Mexican Drug War150,000–250,0002006–presentMexico vs. Drug cartelsMexico
Boko Haram insurgency51,567+2009–presentMultinational Joint Task Force vs. Boko HaramNigeria
Syrian Civil War387,000–593,000+2011–presentSyrian Arab Republic vs. Republic of Syria vs. ISIL vs. Syrian Democratic ForcesSyria
Rojava-Islamist conflict50,000+2013-presentSyrian Democratico Forces vs. Islamic States of Iraq and Levant vs. al-Nusra FrontSyria
Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)195,000–200,000+2014–2017Iraq and allies vs. ISILIraq
Yemeni Civil War233,000+2014–presentYemen’s Supreme Political Council vs. Hadi Government and Saudi-led CoalitionYemen

It would be worth spending some time exploring some of these conflicts to get a feel for their differences and similarities.

But even if you don’t do any ‘deeper digging’ just a quick skim through Wiki’s list of ongoing conflicts can be informative – it shows you that MOST contemporary high death toll conflicts occur in developing countries, mostly in the middle east and Sub-Saharan Africa, and it also shows you just you that some countries have suffered ongoing or successive conflicts for several years – we see this in the Congo, and in Iraq and Syria.

Wikipedia also looks at conflict deaths by country from 2016 to 2020 – Mexico tops the list in 2020, and this along with Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Nigeria have had particularly high levels of conflict deaths over the past 5 years.

Signposting and related posts

This post has been written mainly for students studying A-level sociology (AQA focus).

War and Conflict is a topic within the optional second year Global Development Module.

Other related posts you should read alongside this one include:

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

Sources/ find out more

(1) Nice info map graphic – By Futuretrillionaire, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22118731

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