Number of Internally Displaced People Worldwide Hits Record High, Report Says
Approximately 41 million people have been displaced by disaster and conflict.
On Friday, the refugee advocacy group released a global report on displacement that focuses on the aggravating issue of increased internal displacement. According to the report, 28 million people were displaced in their own countries as a result of conflict and disaster in 2018 alone.
Most of those displaced are in several African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Somalia, Cameroon, and Syria.
“This year’s report is a sad reminder of the recurrence of displacement, and of the severity and urgency of [internally displaced people’s] needs. Many of the same factors that drove people from their homes now prevent them from returning or finding solutions in the places they have settled,” said Alexandra Bilak, Internal Displacement Monitoring Center’s director.
Ongoing conflict in #DRCongo and #Syria, and a rise in intercommunal tensions in #Ethiopia, #Cameroon and #Nigeria’s Middle Belt region triggered most of the 10.8 million new displacements by conflict and violence in 2018. More here: https://t.co/3psd7nIK3k#GRID2019pic.twitter.com/X4dxPWoCuM— IDMC (@IDMC_Geneva) May 10, 2019
Many political, economic, and environmental reasons contributed to the high numbers of displaced people, including ongoing conflict in the DRC and intercommunal tensions in Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Nigeria’s Middle Belt region.
Despite being the second largest African nation with myriad natural resources, the DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the World Bank’s estimates, about 64% of its population is considered extremely poor and lives on $1.90 a day or less. And the country’s poorest region has been hit the hardest by conflict after violence broke out in 2016 between the local militia in Kasai, and the national government. The conflict resulted in the displacement of about 1.3 million people.
Throughout the DRC, 2.1 million people were displaced between 2017 and 2018, making it the African country with the highest number of internally displaced people — a total of 4.5 million.
Globally, displacement figures are the highest in Syria where 6.1 million people remain displaced with the country now in its ninth year of civil war. The conflict began with a political protest that started during the Arab Spring in 2011 soon escalated to armed violence that continues to this day.
But conflict and violence were not the main drivers of displacement everywhere in the world. The majority of displaced people were actually forced to leave home due to extreme weather conditions. Approximately 17.2 million people were displaced for reasons linked to disasters in 2018. In Philippines, China, and India, most displaced people were forced to evacuate their homes in areas hit by cyclones and floods. While California suffered its worst wildfires in history, which displaced thousands of people.
“The findings of this report are a wake-up call to world leaders. Millions of people forced to flee their homes last year are being failed by ineffective national governance and insufficient international diplomacy. Because they haven't crossed a border, they receive pitiful global attention,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“All displaced people have a right to protection and the international community has a duty to ensure it.”
The report also predicts that internal displacement will become an increasingly urban phenomenon. Metropolitan cities such as Dhaka in Bangladesh have become a preferred destination for people dealing with effects of climate change.
Experts believe that climate change could lead to increased rates of migration in the future. This means that cities will have to cater for to new population by diversifying economically and creating climate-resilient jobs to grow at a faster rate.
“The fact that cities have become sanctuary to more and more internally displaced people represents a challenge for municipal authorities, but also an opportunity,” Bilak said. “Leveraging the positive role that local government can play in finding solutions to displacement will be key to addressing this challenge in the future.”