audio calendar close compressed excel Group 2 Created with Sketch. image Group menu pdf pin play search ticket icon Created with Sketch. Group Created with Sketch. video word
Moment photo 1 AEC9181

The challenge of working amidst conflict

View more:


For nearly half the people involved in the work of Tearfund’s partners in recent years, everyday challenges have been compounded and made even more complex by the impact of conflict. In the midst of the upheaval that conflict brings, Tearfund’s partners continue to be a steady presence in communities, adapting when possible the way they work in order to support positive change.

Globally, conflict is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2022, a record high of more than 100 million people were displaced as a result of war, violence, persecution and human rights abuses.1 A World Bank report found that since 2007, the number of people living near conflict has doubled.2 Tearfund’s commitment to working in hard places means that many of our partners are working in places burdened by different, often compounding, forms of conflict.

In 2022-2023, more than 300,000 people were directly impacted by the work of Tearfund’s partners in conflict-affected areas. This amounts to almost half the number of all the people who are directly participating in the work of our partners. Tearfund’s partners typically think about their projects in terms of the change that they seek to support, facilitate and enable within communities. This means things like improvements in health, greater income for households and families, higher agricultural yields, access to clean water, positive and healthy changes in behaviour, and assisting people to recover from disasters.

Sometimes you can’t distribute the aid to the target communities because they give their priority to saving their lives and they move away … and when you sign a project agreement with the government, sometimes because of the conflict the government itself moves away. Sometimes you are forced to shift the project location. Such kind of problems were always there [in Tigray].

Abraham Alembo, Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission

Adapting to change

While some of our partners have been operating in the context of protracted conflict for years, others have suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves in the midst of it. Traditional approaches to development are not always well-suited to conflict zones, and as these examples show, Tearfund’s partners continually adapt their projects and practices in order to continue operating in volatile settings.

In conflict-affected regions, the future is often uncertain and unpredictable, which can make long-term planning difficult.

One of Tearfund’s partners in Myanmar has focused on doing as much as it can, while it can. It’s running vocational and life skills training and English language classes with the hope that these will produce long-term, transferable skills that will serve the community members well, regardless of what the future holds.

Relationships are key in fostering an environment that allows project work to continue in places affected by conflict.

By investing in relationships with the local community and government officials, Tearfund’s partners can establish a level of credibility and support that has allowed them to negotiate the conditions required so that they can keep operating.

As much as possible, Tearfund’s partners work to promote long-term change as part of their project work.

In Somalia, our partner is supporting people who have been internally displaced by conflict, through health, nutrition, and water and sanitation projects. This work involves influencing long-term change, like improving treatment protocols in clinics and training community volunteers on how to provide psychological first aid, but also responding to immediate needs as they occur.

In Karamoja there has been internal conflict, but you can’t tell the time that it is going to be, so you need to implement both: humanitarian and development projects. If people are pushed to camps then you need to do two things: provide emergency food but also help them to produce their own food in the locality where they have settled.

Inyangat James Peter, Vision TERUDO, Uganda

Peace must happen at the local, interpersonal level as well as spreading up and out.

In South Sudan, project participants report that the peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives of our partner Sudan Evangelical Mission are also contributing to reduced levels of domestic violence and conflict between households.


Pray with us

This is an edited extract of an article by Andrea Derungs, who was an intern in Tearfund’s International Programs Team in 2023.

Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).