From Kashmir to Cameroon, we look at how conflicts in key flashpoint regions are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Houthi tribesmen hold their weapons as they chant slogans during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen on September 21, 2019.
Houthi tribesmen hold their weapons as they chant slogans during a tribal gathering showing support for the Houthi movement, in Sanaa, Yemen on September 21, 2019. (Hani Mohammed / AP Archive)

The United Nations has appealed for ceasefires in all major conflicts around the planet, as the novel coronavirus has killed 100,000 and placed half of the world population in confinement.

Here is a summary of how Covid-19 has so far affected conflicts raging in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.


Deaths in conflict: More than 100,000 since 2015

Coronavirus cases: 1

Deaths from coronavirus: 0

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels declared a two-week ceasefire in the Arab world's poorest nation from Thursday. 

The announcement is a rare glimmer of hope for the five-year-old conflict.

Yemen reported its first case of coronavirus on Friday in a southern province under the control of the government, raising fears of an outbreak.

In a country where the health infrastructure has collapsed, where water is a rare commodity and where 24 million people require humanitarian assistance, the population had feared the worst without a ceasefire allowing for adequate aid.


Deaths in conflict: More than 400,000

Coronavirus cases: 19

Deaths from coronavirus: 2

The Covid-19 outbreak turned into a pandemic just as a ceasefire reached by the two main foreign power brokers in Syria's nine-year-old war — Russia and Turkey — was taking effect.

The three million people living in the ceasefire zone, in the country's northwestern region of Idlib, had little hope the deal would hold.

Yet fears the coronavirus could spread like wildfire across the devastated country appear to have given the truce an extended lease of life.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the month of March saw the lowest civilian death toll since the conflict started in 2011, with 103 deaths.

The ability of the multiple administrations in Syria — the Damascus regime, the PKK/YPG terror group in the northeast and the opposition-led alliance that runs Idlib –– to manage the coronavirus threat is key to their credibility.

The pandemic and the global mobilisation it requires could also lead to the departure of US-led troops from Syria.


Deaths in conflict:  In hundreds

Coronavirus cases: 24

Deaths from coronavirus: 1

Fighting has rocked the capital Tripoli in recent days, suggesting the risk of a major coronavirus outbreak is not enough to make guns fall silent.

The main protagonists in the Libyan conflict initially welcomed the UN ceasefire call but swiftly resumed hostilities.

Hostilities on Monday damaged a Tripoli hospital where Covid-19 patients were being treated, the International Organization for Migration said.

Western countries have been hit hardest by the pandemic, which could prompt them to divert both military resources and peace-brokering capacity from foreign conflicts.

The International Crisis Group has reported European officials as saying that efforts to secure a ceasefire in Libya were no longer receiving high-level attention due to the pandemic.


Deaths in conflict: Nearly 300,000, since 2003

Coronavirus cases: 1,232 

Deaths from coronavirus: 69

Iraq is no longer gripped by fully-fledged conflict but it remains vulnerable to a Daesh resurgence in some regions and its two main foreign backers are at each other's throats.

Iran and the United States are two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus but there has been no sign of any let-up in their battle for influence that has largely played out on Iraqi soil.

With most non-US troops in the coalition, France and UK, now gone and some bases evacuated, American personnel are regrouped in a handful of locations in Iraq.

Washington has deployed Patriot air defence missiles, prompting fears of a fresh escalation with Tehran, whose proxies it blames for a spate of rocket attacks on bases housing US troops.

Palestine [West Bank, Gaza]

Coronavirus cases: Over 250 in West Bank/ 12 in Gaza

Coronavirus deaths: 0

Coronavirus amid curbs on cash-strapped Palestinians is bringing no respite to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israel continues its raids on villages and towns of occupied West Bank, and calls for release of some 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails have been rejected by Tel Aviv.

The Palestinians have launched a plan calling for $137 million from international donors for their Covid-19 response, but aid officials say there is little funding available as Western countries tackle their own crises.

The Palestinian government may struggle to pay full salaries to its employees next month, while tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in Israel to support their families have returned home without pay for the duration of the crisis.

Despite coronavirus, Israel and Palestinians don't appear to break ice on the thorny issues miring their ties.

India-administered Kashmir

Deaths in conflict: Between 70,000-100,000, since 1989

Coronavirus cases: More than 180

Coronavirus deaths: 4

Covid-19 has hit the world's most militarised zone at a time when it's still reeling from a lengthy lockdown and limited internet since August 5 last year.

India has not heeded the "global ceasefire" call by the UN as its army continues to lay siege to villages and hinterland to target rebel fighters and their hosts.

Despite the pandemic and the region's record of poor health infrastructure, India has also ordered a new "settler colonial" plan allowing non-local Indians, meeting certain criteria, to assume jobs and properties in the contested region.

It has also rejected calls for release of thousands of Kashmiri prisoners languishing in Indian jails.

Meanwhile, armies of both Pakistan and India have upped the skirmishes at the de facto border, Line of Control, that cuts Kashmir into Pakistan and India-administered portions, even as both sides are themselves locked in a struggle to contain the virus dogging their countries.


Deaths in conflict: More than 9,000

Missing: 43,000

Displaced: More than one million

Coronavirus cases: 0

Coronavirus deaths: 0

Concern is growing about a possible Covid-19 outbreak in the world's largest refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Dhaka has locked up nearly a million refugees while in restive Rakhine state in Myanmar, aid agencies say some 350,000 displaced are vulnerable to the disease.

Overcrowded camps are "Covid-19 tinderboxes," Human Rights Watch said.   

Experts have warned that the disease in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar could spread quickly through the cramped, sewage-soaked alleys where the persecuted Muslim minority are housed in canvas and bamboo shacks.

No cases have been confirmed in the camps but one infection has been recorded nearby.


Deaths in conflict: Nearly 157,000 since 2001

Coronavirus cases: 521

Coronavirus deaths: 15

Chances of a ceasefire appear grim in Afghanistan where President Ashraf Ghani is facing an ongoing political crisis, US fury over a floundering peace process and a growing coronavirus epidemic that officials fear could run riot through the country's prisons.

Talks on a prisoner swap between the Kabul government and Taliban insurgents have hit a roadblock after insurgents walked out of dialogue after dismissing Kabul's piecemeal freeing of captives as "unacceptable."

Taliban are seeking the release of 5,000 of its fighters in exchange for 1,000 Afghan soldiers as part of the US-Taliban deal, but Kabul wants to release less-harmful fighters first and in stages. It also wants successful intra-Afghan talks until the last of the Taliban fighters are freed.

Taliban says it is willing to temporarily suspend fighting against the Afghan forces in areas hit by the coronavirus, rejecting news reports that the group could declare a ceasefire amid the pandemic.


Conflict deaths: Several thousand

Coronavirus cases: 74

Coronavirus deaths: 12

Last month, Mali held its long-delayed parliamentary election despite an insurgency in its central and northern regions, concerns about coronavirus and the recent kidnapping of the main opposition leader.

Mali's main opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was ambushed in March while on the campaign trail in the northern region of Timbuktu. The attackers killed Cisse's bodyguard and took Cisse and six members of his delegation hostage. They have not been seen since.

Coronavirus hasn’t stopped the fighting in the West African nation where at least 25 government soldiers were killed last week in a militant ambush.

France and several of its European allies have raised a new army called Takuba, that will fight armed groups in the West African region of Sahel alongside the armies of Mali and Niger.

Mali has been struggling to defeat a militancy that erupted in the north in 2012, and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.


Conflict deaths: Several thousand

Coronavirus cases: 12

Coronavirus deaths: 1

Somalia has reported its first death of a patient suffering from Covid-19 and also said the transmission was occurring among people who had no history of foreign travel.

Though the Horn of Africa country officially has just 12 positive cases, Wednesday's announcement highlights concerns that the coronavirus may, in fact, be more widespread and could soon overwhelm the health system of a country that has been mired in conflict for nearly three decades.

Somalia was plunged into chaos with the fall of the autocrat Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, and it endures regular attacks from the militant group Al Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

The group has linked the spread of coronavirus to "crusader forces who have invaded the country and the disbelieving countries that support them."

This has added to the worries of the government. It has now employed religious clerics to bust myths surrounding Covid-19 in the region.  


Anglophone conflict deaths: 3,000

Coronavirus cases: 658

Coronavirus deaths: 9

Cameroon's Southern Cameroon Defence Forces (SOCADEF) are observing a temporary ceasefire due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It's leader Ebenezer Akwanga has said his group will observe a ceasefire from March 29 to April 12 to allow humanitarian assistance and testing in the area.

SOCADEF says it has been marginalised in the majority French-speaking nation.

For three years, Akwanga's group has been battling with the government forces in the Anglophone regions trying to create a separate state called "Ambazonia."

There is, however, no indication that the Red Dragons, Tigers and Ambazonia Defence Forces — major rebel groups seeking independence in English-speaking parts of Cameroon — will also announce ceasefire amid coronavirus.

Source: TRT World