Conflicts and natural disasters forced millions of people to flee within their own country last year, bringing the total number of displaced to a record nearly 60 million, according to a study released Thursday by NGOs . Internally displaced people numbered 59.1 million in 2021, almost half of whom were under the age of 18, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
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From year to year, this figure - which therefore does not take into account refugees abroad - continues to grow and a new record should be set in this regard in 2022 due to the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia, which began on February 24.
It is the second highest annual figure in ten years, behind 2020, which saw a record number of displacements due to a series of natural disasters. "The year 2022 promises to be dark", with in particular the war in Ukraine, alerted the director of the IDMC, Alexandra Bilak, at a press conference.
More than eight million people were thus displaced inside Ukraine, more than two months after the invasion of the country by Russia, according to the UN. The situation in the world "has never been so bad", observed the NRC general secretary, Jan Egeland, who assures that "the world is falling apart".
“The situation today is actually incredibly much worse than our record number suggests. We need world leaders to make a titanic shift in their thinking about avoiding and settling conflict, to end this spiral of human suffering,” he said.
Last year, sub-Saharan Africa was the region that recorded the highest number of internal displacements (many people moving several times), including more than five million in Ethiopia alone, a country in the grip of a serious drought and where conflict broke out at the end of 2020 in the Tigray region. This is the highest figure ever recorded in a single country.
Unprecedented figures were also recorded last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, where the return to power of the Taliban combined with drought forced many people to flee their homes. In Burma, where the military took power following a coup in February 2021, the number of displacements has also reached a record high.
The burden of natural disasters
The Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand, recorded the lowest levels of new displacement in ten years, with the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq having seen some de-escalation, but the total number of people displaced in the region remains high. Thus, Syria still had the highest number of internally displaced people due to conflict, at 6.7 million at the end of 2021. Next come the DRC (5.3 million) and Colombia (5.2 million), as well as than Afghanistan and Yemen (4.3 million each).
Although people displaced by conflict are still increasing, natural disasters remain the main reason why people are forced to flee their homes (23.7 million displacements in 2021). No less than 94% of these displacements were attributed to weather and climate disasters, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, which are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.
70% of internal displacement linked to natural disasters in 2021 was recorded in China, the Philippines and India. But increasingly, conflicts and natural disasters go hand in hand, noted Mr. Egeland. In places like Mozambique, Burma, Somalia and South Sudan, the crises are overlapping, impacting food security and increasing the vulnerability of millions of people.