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UNHCR calls for concerted action as forced displacement hits new record
by UNHCR, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
7:57am 10th May, 2023
June 2023
UNHCR calls for concerted action as forced displacement hits new record in 2022
Increase last year was driven by war in Ukraine and revised estimates for Afghan refugees; further fighting, especially in Sudan, has now pushed global total to 110 million.
The full-scale war in Ukraine, alongside conflict elsewhere and climate-driven upheaval meant more people than ever remained uprooted from their homes last year, heightening the urgency for immediate, collective action to alleviate the causes and impact of displacement, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said today.
UNHCR’s flagship annual report, Global Trends in Forced Displacement 2022, found that by the end of 2022, the number of people displaced by war, persecution, violence and human rights abuses stood at a record 108.4 million, up 19.1 million on a year earlier, which was the biggest ever increase.
The upward trajectory in global forced displacement showed no sign of slowing in 2023 as the eruption of conflict in Sudan triggered new outflows, pushing the global total to an estimated 110 million by May.
“These figures show us that some people are far too quick to rush to conflict, and way too slow to find solutions. The consequence is devastation, displacement, and anguish for each of the millions of people forcibly uprooted from their homes,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
Of the global total, 35.3 million were refugees, people who crossed an international border to find safety, while a greater share – 58 per cent, representing 62.5 million people – were displaced in their home countries due to conflict and violence.
The war in Ukraine was the top driver of displacement in 2022. The number of refugees from Ukraine soared from 27,300 at the end of 2021 to 5.7 million at the end of 2022 – representing the fastest outflow of refugees anywhere since World War II. Estimates for the number of refugees from Afghanistan were sharply higher by the end of 2022 due to revised estimates of Afghans hosted in Iran, many having arrived in previous years.
Similarly, the report reflected upward revisions by Colombia and Peru of the numbers of Venezuelans, mostly categorized as “other people in need of international protection,” hosted in those countries.
The figures also confirmed that, whether measured by economic means or population ratios, it remains the world’s low- and middle-income countries – not wealthy states – that host most displaced people. The 46 least developed countries account for less than 1.3 per cent of global gross domestic product, yet they hosted more than 20 per cent of all refugees.
Funding for the numerous displacement situations and to support hosts lagged behind needs last year, remaining sluggish in 2023 as requirements increase.
“People around the world continue to show extraordinary hospitality for refugees as they extend protection and help to those in need,” Grandi added, “but much more international support and more equitable responsibility sharing is required, especially with those countries that are hosting most of the world’s displaced.
“Above all, much more must be done to end conflict and remove obstacles so that refugees have the viable option to return home voluntarily, safely and with dignity.”
While the total figure of displaced continued to grow, the Global Trends report also showed that those forced to flee are not condemned to exile, rather they can and do go home, voluntarily and safely.
In 2022, over 339,000 refugees returned to 38 countries, and though was lower than the previous year there were significant voluntary returns to South Sudan, Syria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. Meantime, 5.7 million internally displaced people returned in 2022, notably within Ethiopia, Myanmar, Syria, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
At the end of 2022, an estimated 4.4 million people worldwide were stateless or of undetermined nationality, 2 per cent more than at the end of 2021.
The Global Trends report was launched six months ahead of the second Global Refugee Forum, a major gathering in Geneva bringing together a range of actors to find new solutions for and embed solidarity with people forced to flee and their hosts.
Every day, people flee conflict and disasters and become displaced inside their own countries, report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) around the world reached 71.1 million as of the end of 2022, an increase of 20 per cent from the previous year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s flagship annual report.
The number of movements in which people fled in search of safety and shelter, sometimes more than once, was also unprecedented in 2022. The conflict in Ukraine triggered nearly 17 million displacements as people fled repeatedly from rapidly shifting frontlines, and monsoon floods in Pakistan triggered 8.2 million, accounting for a quarter of the year’s global disaster displacement.
“Today’s displacement crises are growing in scale, complexity and scope, and factors like food insecurity, climate change and escalating and protracted conflicts are adding new layers to this phenomenon,” said IDMC’s director, Alexandra Bilak. “Greater resources and further research are essential to help understand and better respond to IDPs’ needs”.
Internal displacement is a global phenomenon, but nearly three-quarters of the world’s IDPs live in just 10 countries - Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ukraine, Colombia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan - many as a result of unresolved conflicts that continued to trigger significant displacement in 2022.
Conflict and violence triggered 28.3 million internal displacements worldwide, a figure three times higher than the annual average over the past decade. Beyond Ukraine, nine million or 32 per cent of the global total were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. DRC accounted for around four million and Ethiopia just over two million.
The number of disaster displacements rose by nearly 40 per cent compared to the previous year, reaching 32.6 million, largely the result of the effects of La Nina which continued for a third consecutive year. South Asia recorded the highest regional figure, surpassing East Asia and the Pacific for the first time in a decade.
In the Horn of Africa, the worst drought in 40 years triggered 2.1 million movements, including 1.1 million in Somalia alone, while fuelling acute food insecurity across the region.
The secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, described the overlapping crises around the world as a “perfect storm”.
“Conflict and disasters combined last year to aggravate people’s pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, triggering displacement on a scale never seen before,” he said. “The war in Ukraine also fuelled a global food se- curity crisis that hit the internally displaced hardest. This perfect storm has undermined years of progress made in reducing global hunger and malnutrition.”
Three-quarters of the countries that face crisis levels of food insecurity are also home to IDPs. Shining light on this connection is key to understanding how IDPs are affected by disruptions to food systems, but also how future investments in food security will be essential to reaching solutions.
“There is an increasing need for durable solutions to meet the scale of the challenges facing displaced people,” Bilak said. “This spans the expansion of cash assistance and livelihood programmes that improve IDPs’ economic security, through to investments in risk reduction measures that strengthen their communities’ resilience.”
World’s most neglected displacement crises. (NRC)
For the first time, Burkina Faso tops the list of the world’s most neglected displacement crises, according to a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Redirection of aid and attention towards Ukraine has increased neglect of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
The annual list of neglected displacement crises is based on three criteria: lack of humanitarian funding, lack of media attention, and a lack of international political and diplomatic initiatives. The crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo ranks second, having appeared first or second on the list every year since its inception seven years ago. Colombia, Sudan, and Venezuela follow in this grim ranking.
“Neglect is a choice – that millions of displaced people are cast aside year after year without the support and resources they so desperately need is not inevitable,” said Jan Egeland, NRC’s Secretary General.
“The powerful response to the suffering inflicted by the war in Ukraine demonstrated what the world can deliver for people in need. Political action for Ukrainians has been impactful and swift, borders kept open, funding plenty, and media coverage extensive. Those in power need to show the same humanity towards people affected by crises in places such as Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
More than five times more articles were written about the Ukrainian displacement crisis last year than about all the world’s ten most neglected crises in total. For every dollar raised per person in need in Ukraine in 2022, just 25 cents were raised per person in need across the world’s ten most neglected crises.
The repeated warnings of increased disparity due to the reallocation of resources to the Ukraine response have now become reality. The redirection of a large amount of aid money towards Ukraine and towards hosting refugees in donor countries means that many crises have seen a drop in assistance, despite growing needs. Total aid to Africa, where we find seven out of the ten most neglected crises, was 34 billion USD in 2022, representing a drop of 7.4 per cent compared to 2021.
The Ukraine crisis also contributed to an increase in food insecurity in many of the countries featured in the report, worsening already dire crises, and increasing the number of people in need.
“The world has failed to support the most vulnerable, but this can be reversed. The lives of millions of people suffering in silence can improve, if funding and resources are allocated based on need, not geopolitical interest, and media headlines of the day,” said Egeland. “Last year the gap between what was needed and what was delivered in humanitarian assistance was 22 billion USD. This is a huge sum of money, but no more than Europeans spend on ice cream a year. We need donors to increase support and new donor countries to step up to share responsibility.”
Burkina Faso’s decline since the crisis broke out five years ago has been swift and devastating. More than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and nearly a quarter of the population now requires humanitarian aid. Across the country, 800,000 people are living in areas under blockade by armed groups where they have no access to even basic services. The situation is increasingly dire with some people forced to eat leaves to survive.
“We must do more to end the suffering in Burkina Faso before despair becomes entrenched and it is added to the growing list of protracted crises. That this crisis is already so deeply neglected shows a failure of the international system to react to newly emerging crises, as it also fails those lost in the shadows for decades. Ultimately, greater investment in diplomatic solutions is needed if we hope to pull crises off this list,” said Egeland.
The world’s most neglected displacement crises highlights Burkina Faso, DR Congo, Colombia, Sudan, Venezuela, Burundi, Cameroon, Mali, El Salvador, Ethiopia.

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