Nuclear arsenals are swelling. Conflict is on the rise. Millions are displaced. International law is disregarded with impunity, as criminal and terrorist networks profit from the division and violence. This is the situation the world finds itself in today.
The reasons for the outbreak of conflict range from territorial disputes and regional tensions, to corruption and dwindling resources due to climate change.
Conflicts disrupt access to basic services like food and water, and force people into extreme poverty, with the poorest and the most vulnerable paying the highest price. In addition to taking lives and devastating infrastructure in the short term, conflict and its consequences are profound and enduring, reversing progress towards achieving the Global Goals.
The current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine may be in the spotlight right now, but there are many conflicts occurring globally that deserve equal support and compassion. Here are 10 things you should know about ongoing conflicts around the world.
1. There Are at Least 27 Live Conflicts Right Now
According to the Council on Foreign Relations’s Global Conflict Tracker, there are currently 27 ongoing conflicts worldwide. The tracker categorizes conflict into three groups: “worsening,” “unchanging,” and “improving.” Right now, there’s not a single conflict described as “improving.”
Of those worsening are the conflict in Ukraine, the war in Afghanistan, political instability in Lebanon, the war in Yemen, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, and the conflict in Ethiopia.
2. Conflict and Violence Are on the Rise
Globally, conflict and violence are on the rise, according to the United Nations. The UN has warned that peace is more under threat around the world than it has been since World War II.
3. 2 Billion People Currently Live in Conflict-Affected Areas
A quarter of the entire global population lives in conflict-affected areas. Some of the worst affected places are Ethiopia's Tigray region, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. According to the UN, last year, 84 million people were forcibly displaced because of conflict, violence, and human rights violations. This year, it is estimated that at least 274 million people will need humanitarian assistance.
4. Children in Yemen Are So Hungry They’re Eating Their Own Hands
For six years, Yemen has been locked in a bloody civil war between the Saudi-supported government forces and the Houthi fighters backed by Iran. Nearly a quarter of a million people have been killed, but many more have been pushed to the brink of starvation.
Children are paying the heaviest price. Four-year-old Meshal even gnawed his own fingers because he was so hungry. One child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen, according to the UN’s report from August 2021.
5. Over 13 Million Syrians Have Been Forcibly Displaced Since the War Began
Nearly 11 years after it started, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis worldwide (13.2 million, including 6.6 million refugees and more than 6 million internally displaced people). At least 2 million people are living in tented camps with limited access to basic services.
The beginning of the war in Syria dates back to the Arab Spring — a series of anti-authoritarian protests, uprisings, and rebellions that spread across several Middle Eastern countries in the early 2010s. The people of Syria raised their voices to demand reform. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad cracked down on dissent and made it clear democratic rule wasn’t part of his plan. When thousands more took to the streets, the army answered by opening fire against the demonstrators. After that, small factions of armed rebels began to appear and have been trying to topple the government ever since. To this day, the government and rebels remain mired in a full-scale civil war.
6. The Conflict in Myanmar Is the Longest Ongoing Civil War in the World
Lasting more than 60 years, the conflict in Myanmar (previously called Burma) remains the longest ongoing civil war in the world. The country has been plagued by decades of repressive military rule and civil war with ethnic minority groups since 1948, the year the country gained independence from the UK.
Back in 2011, there was some hope the country would transition away from full military rule, but hopes for democratic reforms were dashed and the military maintained control over much of the government.
In 2017, the Tatmadaw (the armed forces of Myanmar) and local security forces began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority, murdering thousands and burning villages to the ground.
Nearly 880,000 Rohingya refugees have fled the country. The most vulnerable, including pregnant women, babies, children, and the elderly have been forced to travel for days to reach safety in Bangladesh. Today, they live in the world’s largest and most densely populated refugee camp, Kutupalong. Around half of those refugees are children.
7. Only One Case of Rape Has Ever Been Successfully Prosecuted by the International Criminal Court
Rape is the most neglected war crime of the 1949 Geneva Convention, according to veteran foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, Christina Lamb.
In her book Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, she argues: “War rape [is] met with tacit acceptance and committed with impunity, military and political leaders shrugging it off as a sideshow. Or it was denied to have ever happened.”
Created in 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has secured only one conviction for sexual slavery and rape, in the 2019 case of a Congolese warlord.
Indeed, women and girls experience the worst of conflict, often being seen not as the human beings they are, but as weapons of war.
8. The 10 Most Conflict-Affected Countries Lose, on Average, 41% of Their GDP
The cost of war is almost unfathomable. In addition to the human suffering, social unrest and damage to infrastructure, the burden of war also impacts conflict-affected countries’ economies.
The Institute for Economics & Peace found that the average economic cost of violence in the 10 most conflict-affected countries in the world is equivalent to 41% of their gross domestic product (GDP).
Why is this important? Because when violence disrupts an economy, the effects are felt long after the conflict subsides and results in almost everyone getting poorer.
9. Conflicts Drive 80% of All Humanitarian Needs
“The human and economic costs of fragility, conflict, and violence are staggering,” Franck Bousquet, the senior director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV) Group at the World Bank, wrote in an article for the New Humanitarian.
Conflict drives 80% of humanitarian needs and in 2016, the cost of conflict globally stood at an astonishing $14 trillion. That’s enough to end world hunger 42 times over. Just imagine what the world could do with that money if conflicts were to end worldwide.
10. Afghan Families Have Been Forced to Sell Organs and Babies to Afford Bread
More than half of the country’s estimated 40 million population face “extreme levels of hunger, and nearly 9 million of them are at risk of famine,” according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
In such extreme conditions, many toddlers have already starved to death. Unable to watch this happen, many families have taken the agonizing decision to sell their children, while others have resorted to selling their organs on the black market.
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