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.
Wikipedia lists around 40 ongoing wars and conflicts with over 100 combat deaths in 2021 or 2022. 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
Categorising Wars and Conflicts…
Wikipedia categorises ongoing conflicts as follows:
- Major wars (dark red) with over 10 000 direct conflict deaths in the current or previous year – there are currently SIX of these (double the amount from a year ago) which are: the Afghanistan conflict, the Yemeni civil war, the Mexican drug war, the Myanmar internal struggle, the Ethiopian civil war and the Ukraine-Russian war.
- Minor wars (red) with 1000 to 9999 deaths in the current or past year – there are around 12 of these.
- Minor Conflicts (orange) 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’ (yellow) 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)
|Rwandan genocide||800,000||April–July 1994||Hutu people vs. Tutsi Rebels||Rwanda|
|First Congo War||250,000–800,000||1996–1997||Zaire and allies vs. AFDL and allies||Congo|
|Second Congo War||2,500,000–5,400,000||1998–2003||See Second Congo War||Central Africa|
|War on Terror||272,000–1,260,000||2001–present||Anti-Terrorist Forces vs. Terrorist groups||Worldwide|
|War in Afghanistan||47,000–62,000||2001–present||see War in Afghanistan (2001–present)||Afghanistan|
|Iraq War||405,000–654,965||2003–2011||See Iraq War||Iraq|
|War in Darfur||300,000+||2003–present||SRF and allies vs. Sudan and allies vs. UNAMID||Sudan|
|Kivu Conflict||100,000+||2004–present||see Kivu Conflict||Congo|
|War in North-West Pakistan||45,900–79,000||2004–2017||Pakistan, USA, and UK vs. Terrorist groups||Pakistan|
|Mexican Drug War||150,000–250,000||2006–present||Mexico vs. Drug cartels||Mexico|
|Boko Haram insurgency||51,567+||2009–present||Multinational Joint Task Force vs. Boko Haram||Nigeria|
|Syrian Civil War||387,000–593,000+||2011–present||Syrian Arab Republic vs. Republic of Syria vs. ISIL vs. Syrian Democratic Forces||Syria|
|Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)||195,000–200,000+||2014–2017||Iraq and allies vs. ISIL||Iraq|
|Yemeni Civil War||233,000+||2014–present||Yemen’s Supreme Political Council vs. Hadi Government and Saudi-led Coalition||Yemen|
|Russo-Ukrainian War||40 000 – 100 000||2014 – Present||Ukraine (and allied support) and Russia||Europe|
|Ethiopian civil conflict||300 000 – 500 000||2018 – Present||Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan||East Africa|
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.
The Russian-Ukraine Conflict in Perspective
So far in 2022 the Russia-Ukraine conflict has the most cumulative fatalities, just for 2022, but in the grand scheme of things the total death toll is relatively small compared to some of the other ongoing conflicts (sad to say).
Of course we hear a lot about this particular conflict because it is closer to home and because, geopolitically it involves Russia invading Europe, so the rest of us in Europe will feel the impact of it more (the effect on increasing energy prices for example, although IMO that’s got more to do with the failures of neoliberalism rather than the war).
There are many other global conflicts with higher death tolls overall, but we just don’t hear about these because they are further away and they have less impact.
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:
- The role of developed countries in war and conflict – it is important to realise that conflicts are not just something which occur in poor countries!
- How war and conflict prevent development – war is almost certainly the main factor which retards social and economic development – it has some pretty dire short and long term consequences for positive development.
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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