Wars drive number of internally displaced people to record high

Wars in Syria, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo helped push IDP numbers to the highest figure on record: refugee agency

Wars in Syria, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo helped push the number of people internally displaced by violence and conflict to 33.3 million last year, the highest figure on record, a refugee agency said Wednesday.

More than 8 million people were newly displaced in their own countries in 2013, a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva found, an increase of 1.6 million on the previous year. While refugees who cross external borders gain rights under international law, internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been forced to move due to armed conflict or human rights violations have no such rights in many countries.

“This record number of people forced to flee inside their own countries confirms a disturbing upward 
trend of internal displacement,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which IDMC is a part of. “The dramatic increase in forced displacement in 2013 and the fact that the average amount of time 
people worldwide are living in displacement is now a staggering 17 years, all suggest that something is 
going terribly wrong in how we are dealing with this issue.”

The war in Syria is a leading cause of new displacements, as the world’s largest and fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. The IDMC estimates one family in the Arab country flees conflict every 60 seconds, and more than 40 per cent of new IDPs in 2013 came from within Syria.

Syria has the highest number of IDPs related to conflict and violence in the world, at 6.5 million. Columbia has the second largest IDP population, followed by Nigeria (3.3 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (2.9 million) and Sudan (2.4 million).

Together, the five countries represent 63 per cent of the 33.3 million global population of IDPs.

“The IDMC report reveals a frightening reality of life inside Syria, now the largest internal displacement 
crisis in the world,” says Egeland. “Not only do armed groups control the areas where internal displacement camps are located, these camps are badly managed, provide inadequate shelter, sanitation and limited aid delivery.”

The report argues that governments, private companies and development agencies must do more to tackle the root causes of conflicts, and find long-term solutions for displaced communities.

“We should all be concerned about 
these numbers and the continuing upwards trend,” said António Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees. “We have a shared responsibility to act to end this massive suffering.”