When Covid-19 meets conflict: politics of the pandemic response in fragile and conflict-affected states

Dorothea Hilhorst*, Rodrigo Mena

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
139 Downloads (Pure)


The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified existing crises and vulnerabilities, but much remains unknown about how it has affected fragile and conflict-affected settings. This paper builds on the theory that hazards become a disaster in interaction with vulnerability and response policies, yet often lead to renewed disaster risk creation. It is based on seven case studies of countries worldwide that experienced social conflict at the advent of the pandemic, covering the period from March–August 2020. The findings show that authorities instrumentalised Covid-19 to strengthen their control and agendas. Responsibility was assumed for lockdowns, but this was not accompanied by care to mitigate their adverse effects. Social conflict shaped the response, as high levels of mistrust in authorities complicated the implementation of measures, while authorities did not support community-based coping initiatives. Whether Covid-19 will trigger or exacerbate conflict and vulnerabilities depends on pre-existing, country-specific conditions, and how a government and other actors frame the issue and respond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S174-S194
Number of pages21
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

We would like to express great thanks to everyone who worked on this project,
especially those who conducted and guided the case studies: Ana Isabel Alduenda,
Angela Sabogal, Birendra Singh, Camila Ramos, Chitrakshi Vashisht, Christo
Gorpudolo, Claire Akello, Fiorella Macchiavello, Isabelle Desportes, James Kunhiak
Muorwel, Lara Vincent, Lee Pegler, Martin Dacles, Patricia Enriquez, Renata
Cavalcanti, Roanne van Voorst, Samantha Melis, and Yuki Fujita. This work was
supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (grant number:
453-14-013) and by the European Research Council under the Horizon 2020 research
and innovation programme (grant agreement: 884139).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors Disasters © 2021 Overseas Development Institute

Research programs

  • ISS-CI


Dive into the research topics of 'When Covid-19 meets conflict: politics of the pandemic response in fragile and conflict-affected states'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this