Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 28, and has been updated on May 24 following the UN's announcement that the number of displaced people worldwide has surpassed 100 million for the first time.
More than 14 million Ukrainians have fled their homes amid the ongoing Russian invasion — around 6 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 13 facts about the global refugee crisis to show how much help is needed.
1. The number of displaced people surpassed 100 million for the first time ever.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) revealed on May 23 that the number of people who have been forcibly displaced worldwide has reached a “staggering” milestone, with 100 million people now displaced globally for the first time on record.
UN officials counted conflict, violence, and human rights violations as major contributing factors to the figure. As of the end of 2021, the figure had risen to 90 million, however with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulting in one of the worst refugee crises in modern times, and conflict continuing in other parts of the world such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Myanmar, the global crisis is now the worst it’s ever been.
To help put 100 million people in context, that figure represents 1% of the global population.
2. 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.
3. If all forcibly displaced people formed their own country, it would be the 14th largest nation in the world.
With 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, that's equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world. Countries that have a similar sized population include Egypt (102 million) and Vietnam (97 million).
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
NB. This UN data doesn't yet take into account the 3.4 million refugees being hosted in Poland.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Half of the world’s refugees are children.
Nearly 13 million refugees are under the age of 18.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.