The world on fire: Intersectionality in times of conflict



According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program and Peace Research Institute Oslo (2023) – the number of armed conflicts is on a steady rise. More and more regions become engulfed in war, affecting civilians and posing a significant security threat. Just in 2021 89.2 million people were displaced by the rising conflicts; 7 million alone in Ukraine, and well over 3 million in Afghanistan. 

The ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia, Gaza, Yemen, Syria and Ukraine, just to name a few, draw attention to those most vulnerable: women, the elderly, children and the disabled.  


In many conflicts, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Nowadays civilians rather than soldiers, become victims of war. According to UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, most casualties in today’s wars are among civilians, with women and children being particularly affected.  

Fleeing violence, women often find themselves uprooted from their homes, communities, and support networks. In refugee camps or makeshift settlements, women and girls face heightened risks of sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation, and trafficking. Lacking proper shelter, healthcare, and education, they grapple with the daily struggle for survival, their voices drowned out by the chaos of displacement.  

What is even worse, women and girls are systematically targeted for rape, abduction, and slavery by troops seeking to assert control over communities and sow terror among their enemies. The physical and psychological scars of such atrocities can last a lifetime, leaving survivors traumatized and stigmatized, with little recourse for justice or redress. The normalization of sexual violence in conflict perpetuates a culture of impunity, further marginalizing women and undermining their agency. 

The escalation of conflict in the Gaza Strip is having a catastrophic impact on all the civilians trapped in the region – in particular children, who are dying at an alarming rate. Around half of the 1.7 million displaced people are children. There are severe shortages of food, water, sanitation and healthcare in the region – the necessities to survive. The healthcare system is crumbling, disease is rampant, and famine is looming – food production has come to a stop due to the ongoing conflict, which is predicted to have catastrophic consequences. 


Amnesty International reports that in 2021, over 19,000 children were recruited, killed or injured, abducted or victims of sexual violence. These verified violations were most prevalent in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gaza, Myanmar, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. 


On the opposite side of the age spectrum, elderly individuals often find themselves overlooked in discussions of conflict and humanitarian assistance, yet they face unique challenges that demand attention.

Displaced from their homes and communities, they are at increased risk of isolation, neglect, and abuse, with limited access to help. As family members and caregivers may be killed or separated from them during the chaos of conflict, they are left to fend for themselves in increasingly precarious situations. 

Humanitarian organizations and aid agencies often struggle to meet the needs of the elderly in conflict zones, as resources are stretched thin and attention is often focused on more visible and immediate concerns. As a result, the elderly may find themselves marginalized and overlooked in relief efforts, further exacerbating their vulnerability. 

Similar challenges are faced by people with disability, who often must rely on others to flee dangerous regions or get to refugee camps. Many rely on assistive devices such as wheelchairs or crutches or require specialized medicine that is expensive and difficult to attain during the war. Amidst the chaos of conflict, some are unfortunately left behind by their families. This may occur due to inadvertent separation during tumultuous events or because the journey proves too difficult for them to undertake.  

Ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTQ people also often become caught up in unfavourable situations in armed conflicts. The instances of assault, sexual violence, detainment, or violence and threats due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation are all common in the conflict-engaged areas such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.  


Conflict and security rarely go hand-in-hand. However, as armed conflicts extend their reach into various regions, a myriad of security issues come to the forefront. These conflicts not only raise concerns about the safety of travel and the viability of operations within affected areas but also exacerbate the vulnerabilities of marginalized populations. 

It’s crucial to recognize that conflicts heighten the risks faced by vulnerable groups and minorities. As such, it becomes crucial to incorporate their needs and concerns into any planning process. This includes ensuring that evacuation plans and risk assessments are comprehensive and inclusive, taking into account the unique challenges and dangers faced by these communities. 

By prioritizing the inclusion of minorities in planning efforts, we can better safeguard the safety and well-being of all individuals, even in the most tumultuous and uncertain circumstances brought about by conflict. It’s a vital step towards fostering resilience and ensuring that no one is left behind in times of crisis. 


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