Conflict Death Tolls

It is one thing to say that the world’s deadliest conflicts are being ignored, it is another to convincingly show it. It is necessary to first put the scale of the world’s conflicts in perspective – to find out how deadly they actually are. This is more easily said than done, for a number of reasons. Firstly, often no one is counting. Secondly, if someone is counting, they may have a vested interest in the outcome of the ‘count’ – a party to the conflict may want to show how low the damage is from their belligerence, while those considering themselves as being on the side of the victims (or aid organization trying to attract large donations) may want to show how high the death toll is. Finally, there is not necessarily a consensus as to which deaths count as conflict-related deaths – do only battle deaths (from the bullets and bombs) count, or should conflict-related deaths from starvation and disease also be counted? On this final question, considering the nature of conflict and its affect on society as a whole, it seems obvious that nonviolent deaths need to be taken into account. These problems aside, the table below is a tentative compilation of the approximate death tolls of conflicts since the end of the Cold War, drawn from a wide variety of sources.

 

 

Conflict

Death Toll

Democratic Republic of Congo

5,400,000

Southern Sudan

1,200,000

Angola

800,000

Rwanda

800,000

Afghanistan

500,000

Somalia

400,000

Iraq

400,000

Burundi

300,000

Darfur

300,000

Zaire

300,000

Liberia

200,000

Algeria

150,000

Ethiopia-Eritrea

100,000

Chechnya

100,000

Uganda

100,000

Sierra Leone

50,000

Kashmir

50,000

Colombia

50,000

Sri Lanka

50,000

Bosnia-Herzegovina

50,000

Philippines

20,000

Turkey

20,000

Nigeria

20,000

Gulf War

20,000

Azerbaijan

20,000

Bougainville

20,000

Cote d’Ivoire

10,000

Congo, Republic of

10,000

Peru

10,000

Aceh

10,000

Myanmar

10,000

Nepal

10,000

Croatia

10,000

Kosovo

10,000

Kurdish Iraq

10,000

Southern Iraq

10,000

Senegal

< 10,000

Guinea

< 10,000

Chad

< 10,000

Mali

< 10,000

Niger

< 10,000

Central African Republic

< 10,000

Haiti

< 10,000

Mexico

< 10,000

Israel-Palestine

< 10,000

Israel-Lebanon

< 10,000

Yemen

< 10,000

Andrha Pradesh

< 10,000

Gujurat

< 10,000

Northeast India

< 10,000

East Timor

< 10,000

Irian Jaya

< 10,000

Kalimantan

< 10,000

Molucca Islands

< 10,000

Sulawesi

< 10,000

Georgia

< 10,000

Moldova

< 10,000

Northern Ireland

< 10,000

Spain

< 10,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the lack of reliability of death toll figures, the above compilation can give us a good overview of the relative state of conflict in the post-Cold War world. Many of the figures may actually be much higher than seen here – in many cases no one knows. Some of the figures are compromises – a midway point between two very different (and sometimes hotly contested) estimates. Most are rounded off approximations. Many include nonviolent deaths, while others do not (data simply does not exist). The important point here is not to debate whether the death toll figure for a particular conflict has been underestimated or overestimated by 10,000 or even 100,000 or more (although more accurate counts are always important) – with such a huge gap between the scale of the world’s deadliest conflicts and much smaller conflicts, the accuracy issue seems to lose some of its relevance.

 

The primary purpose here is to get an idea of the relative size of conflicts that seem to get the attention and humanitarian concern of the outside world and those that do not. It quickly becomes obvious that conflicts that have dominated the agendas of actors in a position to respond (policymakers, the media, the public and academia) are often relatively small in scale compared to many of those that have consistently failed to attract attention. The next challenge will be to find out why this is the case.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

15 Responses to “Conflict Death Tolls”

  1. Your figures on East Timor are extraordinary. They are inudibtedly wrong: these figures are eiother Indonesian government figures or missing a 0.
    During the Indonesian invasion and occupation, estimates varied between 110,000 to over 250,000. The well documented CAVR report comes up with a minimum of 110, 000.
    If anyone disputes this I am happy to do a systematic compilation of reliable reports.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Elaine. I welcome further and more accurate information on death tolls. You might like to note, however, that these death tolls are those from conflicts in the post-Cold War world (written above and below the table). It thus excludes the deaths from the 1975 invasion and occupation up until 1989. I believe the figures you have provided cover the entire invasion and occupation period. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that the bulk of the violence took place before the end of the Cold War. By the 90s Fretilin’s forces had dropped to the hundreds, and although there were a number of violent incidents (such as the Santa Cruz massacre), and the post-referendum violence in 1999 cost more than 1,000 lives, I doubt the death toll exceeds 10,000 in the post-Cold War period. Of course that is in the absence of data on nonviolent conflict-related deaths. Still, I may be wrong. I welcome further input on the matter.

  3. What about Cambodia? 1.1 million according to http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/toll.htm

  4. Thanks, Tim. Again, this death toll is for the conflict in the Cold War period – specifically the time under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The conflict continued after the fall of this regime, however, with the occupation of Vietnam, which went on until 1989. After that, although the conflict did continue to a relatively minor degree, it was essentially winding down, and this period (the conflict officially ended in 1993) has not been counted here. Although there certainly were casualties in the early 1990s, I have considered this a conflict of the Cold War (as I have those in Mozambique and Ethiopia), and have thus excluded it from consideration here.

  5. Good idea, thank you, but the post needs footnotes detailing the estimates and proper sources

  6. Thanks for all this information. I’m interested to know your opinion asto why there several cesas of violence in th postolonial Africa.

  7. i need the approximate figures at least, these are way far from them

  8. nice presented

  9. Is Africa mature enough to govern itself in the road of democracy as opposed to nepotism and tribalism? Is there a solution to mineral conflict areas that have claimed lives of many people?

  10. I notice that China/Tibet is missing. Is that due to the control over information by Chinese authorities?

    Regarding, the size of conflicts, the one that perennially dominates media intention is Israel-Palestine. As you’ve said, regarding totality of death worldwide, why is that?

  11. what year are these number from?

  12. […] figures and media and political-class attention to Israel. His post was based on numbers offered at Stealth Conflicts: since the end of the Cold War, approximately 5,400,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, […]

  13. What are your sources? I’m especially interested in your sources regarding the death toll in war-torn regions of the African continent. I’m a research assistant for a Law professor writing about the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and self-determination.

  14. […] Virgil Hawkins, Conflict Death Tolls, Stealth Conflicts, November 23, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: