Clashes and natural disasters forced millions to flee their home countries last year, pushing the number of internally displaced people to record highs, observers said Thursday.
Around 59.1 million people worldwide were registered as internally displaced in 2021 – an all-time record expected to be broken again this year amid widespread displacement within war-torn Ukraine.
According to a joint report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), about 38 million new internally displaced persons (IDPs) were reported in 2021, with some being forced to flee more than once a year.
This marks the second highest annual number of new internal displacements in a decade since 2020, which saw record-breaking movements due to natural disasters.
Last year, new internal displacement from the conflict increased by 14.4 million – a 50-percent jump from 2020 and more than doubling from 2012, the report showed.
‘The world is falling apart’
Global displacement figures are expected to increase only this year, especially due to the war in Ukraine.
More than 8 million people have already been displaced in the war-torn country since Russia’s full-scale aggression began on February 24, with more than 6 million fleeing Ukraine as refugees.
“2022 looks dark,” IDMC director Alexandra Bilak told reporters.
Record numbers have been seen in 2021, he said, identifying “a truly tragic accusation for the state of the world and especially for peace-building efforts”.
NRC chief Jan Egland agreed, warning: “It’s never been so bad.”
“The world is collapsing,” he told reporters. “Today’s situation is far worse than our record statistics suggest.”
In 2021, sub-Saharan Africa counted the most internal movements, with more than 5 million displacements reported in Ethiopia alone, as the country plunged into intense conflict and devastating drought.
This is the highest number registered for a single country.
Need a ‘Titanic Shift’
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan also recorded unprecedented displacement last year, where the return to power of the Taliban, including the drought, saw many flee their homes.
In Myanmar, where the military junta seized power in a coup in February last year, the number of displaced people has also reached record highs, the report found.
The Middle East and North Africa recorded the lowest number of new displacements in a decade, as the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq eased somewhat, but the overall number of displaced people in the region was higher.
Syria, where the civil war has raged for more than 11 years, is still responsible for the world’s highest number of internally displaced people due to the conflict by the end of 2021 – 6.7 million.
It is followed by DR Congo at 5.3 million, Colombia at 5.2 million and Afghanistan and Yemen at 4.3 million.
Despite the increase in conflict-related displacement, natural disasters are largely responsible for new internal displacements, encouraging 23.7 million such movements in 2021.
A full 94 percent of these were responsible for weather and climate-related disasters, such as cyclones, monsoon rains, floods and droughts.
Experts say the severity and frequency of such extreme weather events is increasing due to climate change.
China, the Philippines and India were the hardest hit, accounting for about 70 percent of last year’s disaster-related displacement.
Increasingly, conflicts and disasters create “complex waterlogging of problems” as a result of collisions, Egland said, adding to the risks and often forcing people to flee several times.
In places like Mozambique, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan, the overlapping crisis affects food security and exacerbates the vulnerability of millions of people.
“We need a titanic shift in the thinking of world leaders on how to prevent and resolve conflict to end this growing human suffering,” Egland said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)