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Record 50 million people internally displaced in 2019, report finds

29 Apr 2020

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A family at a site for internally displaced people in Kafia, Chad. Credit: OCHA Chad/Mayanne Munan

The number of internally displaced people around the world who have been forced from their homes by conflict and disaster has reached an all-time high – 50.8 million last year – according to a new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

The Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID), published annually by IDMC, which is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, estimates that 45.7 million people are living in internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence in 61 countries. The majority of those people are in Syria, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Yemen and Afghanistan. 

Another 5.1 million people in 96 countries are displaced because of disasters. This includes 1.2 million people displaced by years of drought and floods in Afghanistan, more than 500,000 by monsoon rains in India and 33,000 whose lives are still uprooted a decade after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. 

Contributing to these record figures, 33.4 million new displacements were recorded in 2019, the highest annual figure since 2012. Some 8.5 million took place in the context of conflict and violence in countries such as Syria, DRC, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Burkina Faso.

The report also found that about 24.9 million new displacements were triggered by disasters, including 4.5 million by Cyclone Fani in India and Bangladesh, cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique and Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Heavy and prolonged rains resulted in widespread flooding in Africa, resulting in 2 million new displacements. 

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, has emphasized that the higher numbers of internal displacements is a worrying trend that requires permanent solutions to allow people who have been forced to flee their homes to get back to normal, promote self-reliance and allow them to get their dignity back.

The COVID-19 pandemic is adding to this urgency, requiring a “whole-of-humanity” response that is supported by everyday people, Governments, civil society and the entire international community.

The findings of this year’s report also hold some promise. Efforts to prevent and respond to internal displacement were visible in many countries in 2019. Several in Asia showed that displacement in the form of pre-emptive evacuations saves lives, and that effective early warning systems and other measures to reduce disaster risk avert the worst impacts of disasters.