Published on Data Blog

One in five people in the Middle East and North Africa now live in close proximity to conflict

A new report, Fragility and Conflict: On the Front Lines of the Fight against Poverty, shows the increasing overlap between extreme poverty and conditions of fragility, conflict, and violence, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. But the report also documents another alarming trend, which suggests there may be a new front in the fight against poverty.

Over a decade, the share of the world’s population living in close proximity to conflict has nearly doubled to 3%. The report defines close proximity as living within 60 kilometers of a major conflict event (25 or more battle-related deaths as measured by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program). This is done without consideration for country borders, so a conflict event near a border may affect people from both countries.

This analysis highlights a sharp increase in the exposure to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, from 6% in 2007 to almost 20% in 2017, with a steep increase in 2011. With ongoing conflict and violence in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, this statistic is perhaps not a surprise. But it does provide an alarming assessment of the extent to which the populations in these countries have been almost universally exposed to conflict in close proximity to their homes.

Moreover, the large macroeconomic, trade, and displacement spillovers on neighboring countries, as well as the geopolitics in the region, imply that these conflicts probably have far-reaching welfare implications for the region. As more people become exposed to conflict, addressing its long-term, multi-generational effects becomes more pressing. Infrastructure may be rebuilt, but concerted and long-term investments are needed to restore compromised human capital and economic potential.

This blog is part of a series using data from the new report, “Fragility and Conflict: On the Front Lines of the Fight against Poverty.” The report shows why addressing fragility and conflict is vital for poverty goals and charts directions for action. It presents new estimates of welfare in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS), filling gaps in previous knowledge, and analyzes the multidimensional nature of poverty in these settings. It shows that data deprivation in FCS has prevented an accurate global picture of fragility, poverty, and their interactions, and it explains how innovative new measurement strategies are tackling these challenges.


Paul Corral

Senior Economist, Office of the Human Development Practice Group Chief Economist, World Bank

Nandini Krishnan

Senior Economist, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, South Asia Region

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