Field Protection Clusters

Conflict, violence and human rights abuses remain the main drivers of protection risks. In 2023, more than 160 million people were in need of protection. Amidst growing levels of conflict and violence globally, civilians are often subjected to violence, abuse, coercion and deprivation during armed conflict. There continues to be a blatant disregard for International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law and perpetrators of violations and abuses are rarely held to account, thus encouraging a climate of impunity.

Over the world, armed conflict continues to be characterized by high levels of civilian deaths, injury, displacement, psychological trauma and sexual violence. Alongside such widespread protection risks, we also know that particular groups shoulder disproportionate burdens – children living through conflict for instance are at risk of being separated from their families, recruited into armed groups and denied an education. Women and girls are particularly affected by gender-based violence, described as being among top concerns across cluster operations. 

In 2023, the number of people in need of protection across our 31 cluster operations increased by 42% in just two years, driven by new cycles of violence and conflict, such as in Gaza, Sudan, DR Congo, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Haiti combined with protracted crises in places such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.


Crisis Watch


The ongoing conflict in Sudan, which began in April 2023, has been marked by targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including markets, hospitals, and public offices. Heavy fighting in urban areas, GBV, including conflict- related sexual violence, and violence along ethnic lines are all particularly concerning dimensions of this ongoing crises. As the conflict has continued, the disruption of an already weak protective system in the country has drastically been undermined, resulting in a substantial breakdown in the rule of law and civilian safety mechanisms. The weak protective environment is currently exacerbated by a collapse of health services marked by 80% of non-functional health services in the country. A worrying sign of child recruitment has been observed in different parts of the country while high levels of family separation continue.


The situation in Gaza, previously a protection and humanitarian crisis, is now a catastrophe. People who had already been living under blockade and occupation find themselves under siege and bombardment. 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza, effectively the entire population, are without protection. There are no safe spaces and there are no routes to escape. People in Gaza have endured weeks of the most intense conflict marked by relentless Israeli airstrikes, attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, continual denial of essential services (water, fuel and electricity) and humanitarian aid (including food and medicines). As of mid-November, over 1.7 million people were internally displaced, a level vastly exceeding anything experienced in previous Gaza escalations.


The Sahel continues to face the impact of persistent insecurity, conflict, food insecurity and floods. The coup d’état in Niger in July and the impact of current sanctions has further eroded the protection situation, increasing the reliance of populations on negative coping strategies, such as early marriage, survival sex, child labour and recruitment in armed groups, to ensure the very basics of survival. In Mali, following the approval by the UN Security Council to withdraw the MINUSMA, protection actors anticipate a severe deterioration of the security, humanitarian, and human rights situation. ACLED has reported a 38% increase in violence targeting civilians in Mali so far this year. In Burkina Faso, the number of people internally displaced has reached 1.76 million. For people living in areas cut off by non-State armed groups, their access to basic services, fields, grazing areas and assistance is now increasingly limited, with some areas have crossing the emergency thresholds for food and nutritional insecurity.