Death Toll in 2014’s Bloodiest Wars Sharply Up on Previous Year

Rebels marching in northern CAR.
Rebels marching in northern CAR.

The body count from the top twenty deadliest wars in 2014 was more that 28% higher than in the previous year, research by the Project for the Study of the 21st Century (PS21) shows. Almost every major war in 2014 saw a significant increase in casualties.

According to analysis of a variety of data sets, 2014 saw at least fourteen conflicts that killed more than 1000 people, compared to only ten in 2013.

Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan remained the three deadliest wars, unchanged from the previous year but with all three seeing a significant spike in fatalities

Nigeria was the fourth deadliest, its number of deaths almost tripling on the previous year as the conflict with militant group, Boko Haram, intensified.

“Assessing casualty figures in conflict is notoriously difficult and many of the figures we are looking at here a probably underestimates,” said PS21 Executive Director, Peter Apps. “The important thing, however, is that when you compare like with like data for 2014 and 2013, you get a very significant increase. That says something very concerning.”

Many of the most violent conflicts involved radical Islamist groups – particularly Islamic State, the Taliban, Boko Haram and various Al Qaeda franchises.

Sudan and South Sudan remained amongst the world’s bloodiest wars. Indeed, if the two countries had remained unified, their combined death toll would have pushed them to the number three spot above Afghanistan.

Ukraine, at peace in 2013, became the eighth bloodiest war, its death toll exceeding Somalia, Libya and Israel/the Palestinian territories.

The spike in violence appears part of a broader multi-year trend. Research published last year by the Australia and US-based Institute for Economics and Peace showed a steady decline in world peace and rise in conflict related violence every year since 2007, bucking a multi-decade improvement since the end of World War II.

View the full report here. A discussion with Steve Killelea on rising global conflict trends is at the bottom of this post.

Top 20 Deadliest Countries in 2014

Compared to Top 20 Deadliest Countries in 2013

Rank 2014 Death Toll 2013 Death Toll
1 Syria                 76,021 Syria                 73,447
2 Iraq                 21,073 Afghanistan                 10,172
3 Afghanistan                 14,638 Iraq                   9,742
4 Nigeria                 11,529 Sudan                   6,816
5 South Sudan                   6,389 Pakistan                   5,739
6 Pakistan                   5,496 Nigeria                   4,727
7 Sudan                   5,335 South Sudan                   4,168
8 Ukraine                   4,707 Somalia                   3,153
9 Somalia                   4,447 CAR                   2,364
10 CAR                   3,347 DR Congo                   1,976
11 Libya                   2,825 India                      885
12 Israel/Palestine                   2,365 Mali                      870
13 Yemen                   1,500 Libya                      643
14 DR Congo                   1,235 Yemen                      600
15 India                      976 North Caucuses                      529
16 Philippines                      386 Thailand                      455
17 Mali                      380 Algeria                      340
18 North Caucuses                      341 Philippines                      322
19 Thailand                      330 Colombia                      124
20 Algeria                      242 Myanmar                        62
Total                 163,562                 127,134
% Change                       28.7    

Steve Killelea, Founder and Chief Executive of the Institute for Economics and Peace discusses rising death tolls in global conflict with PS21 Executive Director, Peter Apps:

PS21 Executive Director Peter Apps discusses the report for Reuters TV.

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