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The number of deaths in wars across the globe nearly doubled in 2022.

U.S. Army Soldiers in gun battle against Taliban forces

A 97% increase in lives lost during wars

According to a new report from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) at Uppsala University, organized violence in armed conflicts during 2022 claimed the lives of at least 237,000 people. This represents a 97% increase from the previous year (2021) and is the highest number of deaths since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Shawn Davies, Senior Analyst at UCDP, explained:

“We see this increase despite considerable de-escalation in the two deadliest conflicts of 2021; Yemen and Afghanistan. Instead, violence in Ethiopia and Ukraine escalated drastically.”

In 2022, the wars in Ethiopia and Ukraine led to a minimum of 180,000 deaths related to fighting. Keep in mind that these numbers may be inaccurate due to a lack of reliable information and propaganda. As more data becomes available, the numbers are likely to change significantly. However, the current data indicate that the death toll from these two conflicts in 2022 exceeded the total number of deaths worldwide in the previous year.

Davies said:

“A common perception is that Russia’s war in Ukraine was the bloodiest conflict in 2022, but in fact, more people died in Ethiopia where the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has fought the Ethiopian army, the latter supported by Eritrea, since late 2020.”

Controversial tactics contribute to the increase in wartime deaths

In both Ethiopia and Ukraine, fighting has been characterized by trench warfare, with warring parties being accused of using human wave tactics. Human wave tactics is a military strategy that involves using a large mass of soldiers to overwhelm the enemy. It was popularized during the Korean War, where Chinese troops would advance towards enemy lines in large groups to break through defensive positions.

The tactic involves sending waves of soldiers towards the enemy, with each wave following closely behind the one in front. The soldiers are usually unarmed or equipped with only basic weapons, such as rifles or grenades. The goal is to use sheer numbers to overwhelm the enemy’s defenses and create chaos on the battlefield.

While human wave tactics can be effective in certain situations, it is also extremely risky and costly. The large groups of soldiers are vulnerable to enemy fire, and the tactic can result in heavy casualties. As a result, many modern militaries have moved away from using human wave tactics and instead focus on more modern and sophisticated strategies.

Wars, wars, everywhere

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is the first large-scale interstate war in 20 years. Although conflicts between states are relatively rare, they have become more frequent in recent years.

“It has also become more common for external states to send troop support to rebel groups fighting against other governments, which essentially means that state armies are fighting each other.”

The number of active conflicts in the world remains at a historically high level. UCDP registered 55 different conflicts where a state was involved on one or both sides during 2022. In contrast, between 31 and 39 such conflicts were registered yearly between 2000 and 2013, whilst the annual number has varied between 52 and 56 from 2015 onwards.

“Albeit most conflicts are small, the number of wars increased from five in 2021 to eight in 2022. Conflicts causing at least 1,000 battle-related deaths during one calendar year are considered wars.”

The number of conflicts between armed organized actors, such as rebel groups, remains at a record high level. In 2022, UCDP registered 82 of these conflicts, nine of which were among the deadliest non-state conflicts of the year. These conflicts occurred in Mexico, where rival drug cartels have fought each other over turf since the 1980s. Gang-related violence has also escalated in Brazil, Haiti, Honduras, and El Salvador in recent years.

In addition, there has been an increase in one-sided violence, where civilians are the target. At least 11,800 civilians were killed in intentional, targeted violence carried out by 45 different states or organized groups. The actor that killed the most civilians in one-sided violence was the Islamic State (IS), but states also attacked civilians on a large scale in several conflicts. Russia and Eritrea used extensive violence against civilians in the wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia.

The results presented in the press release will be published in the July issue of the Journal of Peace Research.

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

U.S. Army Soldiers in gun battle against Taliban forces via Flickr with usage type - Public Domain. November 3, 2009

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U.S. Army Soldiers in gun battle against Taliban forces via Flickr with usage type - Public Domain. November 3, 2009


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