More than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes amid the ongoing Russian invasion — 3.7 million of whom have left the country altogether, becoming refugees seeking safety beyond the boundaries of the war.
This growing exodus has been met with extraordinary assistance from other countries and humanitarian organizations that are providing food, water, shelter, medical aid, and new building blocks for life.
This rapid move to integrate those displaced by the war has eased the suffering of millions of people. In the context of the past few decades, however, it represents an almost anomalous reaction by Western countries in particular.
People become refugees for several reasons: war, local violence, political persecution, human rights abuses, and environmental disasters, according to the European Commission. Refugees often struggle to receive adequate assistance and remain in a precarious limbo for years, even decades.
The global refugee crisis has been growing for years, and it’s essential that countries worldwide bring compassion and resources to all incidents of displacement.
After all, the refugee crisis doesn’t have to be a crisis — it could be a situation that is eminently solvable if countries around the world muster the willpower.
Here are 12 facts about the global refugee crisis to show how much help is needed.
1. The number of refugees were already at a record high, even before Ukraine.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reports that there were more than 26.6 million refugees and 50.9 million internally displaced people in the first half of 2021. Additionally, there were 4.4 million asylum seekers worldwide, and 4.1 million Venezuelans displaced.
2. If all forcibly displaced people formed their own country, it would be the 17th largest nation in the world.
As of 2021, more than 84 million people were displaced worldwide, an amount that’s greater than the population of Germany. Factoring in the number of Ukrainian refugees since February and those who have fled other global conflicts and crises over the past year, a hypothetical country of displaced people would be approximately the 17th most populous country on Earth.
3. Refugees wait an average of 20 years to be resettled and assimilated.
That’s 20 years of severance and waiting for your new life to begin. Nobody becomes and remains a refugee because they want to; it’s an identity of survival, of abandoning your past life to avoid death.
4. 85% of refugees are hosted in developing countries.
While wealthy countries have far more resources to host and assist refugees, the vast majority of refugees worldwide are taken in by developing countries. This is often the result of close proximity to crisis zones, meaning refugees end up in these countries after fleeing across the closest borders. But the fact that these host countries don’t turn away refugees makes them exceptional compared to developed countries.
5. Turkey hosts the most refugees globally with 3.7 million, followed by Colombia, Uganda, Pakistan, and Germany.
The bulk of Turkey’s refugee population comes from Syria, which has suffered from more than a decade of civil war. Colombia’s refugees come largely from Venezuela, Uganda’s from South Sudan, Pakistan’s from Afghanistan, and Germany’s from Syria.
6. Aruba and Lebanon have the densest concentrations of refugees within their borders.
For every 1,000 inhabitants of Aruba, there are 156 refugees. In Lebanon, there are 134 refugees per 1,000 residents. In the US, in contrast, there are just 0.84 refugees per 1,000 residents.
7. Less than 1% of refugees are provided the support they need to resettle in a new country, according to Save the Children.
When refugees flee their home countries, they often have little financial and other resources at their disposal. As a result, they need help getting shelter, food, water, and other essential aspects of life. Fully transitioning into a new country with a new livelihood takes additional help. Yet most refugees never reach this point, instead remaining stuck in some in-between state.
8. Half of the world’s refugees are children.
Nearly 13 million refugees are under the age of 18.
9. Nearly half of all refugee children remain out of school.
Refugee children are more likely to attend primary school, but attendance rates plummet when it comes to secondary school and beyond due a lack of resources and social pressure to drop out.
10. There are currently 30 active conflict and crisis zones generating refugees beyond Ukraine.
Two decades of conflict have displaced nearly 2 million people in Somalia, while gang violence and persecution caused more than 720,000 people in Central America to flee their homes. Meanwhile, more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees remain in Bangladesh after being the victims of genocide in Myanmar.
11. The decade-long war in Syria has generated 5.7 million refugees.
Syrian refugees have fled the country and sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and beyond. An additional 6.7 million people have been displaced within Syria, and a total of 13.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.
12. The UN reports a $10 billion funding gap for refugee assistance worldwide.
Many of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, including Yemen, Afghanistan, and Sudan, have received less than a third of the funding needed to support affected populations.
The UN reports that lack of funding jeopardizes essential programs that keep refugees fed and sheltered and provides them with clean water and health services. Other services, such as child protection, support for sexual health, and educational iniatitives, also get scaled down.
On April 9, the Stand Up for Ukraine pledging summit — announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — will seek to raise funds for those impacted by the Ukraine crisis and to support refugees everywhere. Ahead of the event, on April 8, a global social media rally supported by Global Citizen and dozens of artists and advocates will take place to help drive billions for refugee relief worldwide. You can learn more at ForUkraine.com.