Battlefield deaths from global conflicts hit 30-year high, study finds

Last Updated: May 20, 2024By

The Rising Tide of Global Conflicts: The Grim Reality


A Troubling Trend

In the past three years, the world has seen a dramatic rise in deaths from civil conflicts and battles, reaching levels not seen in three decades. This alarming trend has been highlighted in a recent report by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Prio).

More Deaths Than Ever

The report from Prio reveals that while the number of battlefield deaths dropped compared to the previous two years, the overall death toll from conflicts, including civilian casualties, has surged to its highest in 30 years since 2021.


Key Drivers of Conflict

This surge in deaths is largely due to the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Even though conflict-related fatalities decreased last year, thanks to the ceasefire in Tigray, the numbers are still staggering. In 2023 alone, 122,000 people died due to conflicts. Of these, over 71,000 were killed in Ukraine, and around 23,000 in Gaza in just the last three months of 2023.

Growing Complexity

The report also sheds light on the increasing complexity of global conflicts. In 2023, there were 59 different conflict zones in 34 countries, with several states grappling with multiple conflicts at once. Siri Aas Rustad, a research professor at Prio and author of the report, noted, “Violence in the world is at an all-time high… The conflict landscape has become increasingly complex, with more conflict actors operating within the same country.”


International Power Struggles

Rustad pointed out that extreme violent conflicts, such as those in Gaza, Ukraine, and Ethiopia, often overlap, creating international power struggles over support and funding. This, in turn, complicates the global environment.

The Role of Non-State Actors

Conflicts are also becoming more multifaceted, with over half the countries experiencing more than one conflict and seven countries dealing with more than three ongoing conflicts. Islamic State and other armed Islamist groups have been a significant factor, operating in several countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Rustad explained, “The increase in state-based conflicts can be attributed in part to the Islamic State expanding across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, along with other non-state actors like the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin group.”

Africa and the Americas: Hotspots of Conflict

Africa remains the region with the highest number of state-based conflicts, with 28 separate conflict zones. The number of conflicts in Africa has nearly doubled in the past decade, resulting in over 330,000 battlefield deaths since 2021.

For the first time, the Americas have become the region with the most non-state conflicts, totaling 36. Mexico stands out as the most violent country, with nearly 14,000 conflict-related deaths.

A Grim Outlook

Rustad expressed ongoing concern about the emergence of new, extremely violent conflicts. “It is a continuous worry that we see new extremely violent conflicts emerging more often than previously,” she said.

The report paints a grim picture of the current state of global conflicts, underscoring the need for concerted international efforts to address the underlying causes and mitigate the devastating impacts on civilians.

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