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.

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

See (1) below for source

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)

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
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
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
Russo-Ukrainian War40 000 – 100 0002014 – PresentUkraine (and allied support) and RussiaEurope
Ethiopian civil conflict300 000 – 500 0002018 – PresentEthiopia, Eritrea, SudanEast 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:

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

4 thoughts on “Ongoing Wars and Conflicts in the World Today”

  1. Hello, correction on the conflict about Rwandan genocide,
    Firstly, it is called 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and it was between Hutu people and Tutsi people not Tutsi rebels and people who are died are more than one million.
    Take your time to make necessary changes to provide true information to your readers.

  2. Fair point, it wasn’t my intention to cover everything, unfortunately there are so many conflicts today!

  3. If Russia is invading Ukraine, which they are, why isn’t Russia shaded? What is happening in Ukraine is not an internal struggle.

  4. This article forgets the recent Sri Lankan civil war which saw the genocide of Tamils and killing of over 300,000 Tamils by the Sri Lankan state throughout its history.

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