GENEVA- In a world plagued by conflict and natural disasters, the number of people who fled their homes and sought refuge in their countries hit a record high of nearly 60 million by the end of last year, according to new data.
Disasters, including meteorological events such as cyclones and floods in Asia, as well as protracted conflicts in places like Syria, Afghanistan and Ethiopia, were the factors behind the high levels of new displacement last year, according to the report compiled by the Monitoring Center for Disasters. internal transfers based in Geneva (IDMC).
“The world is falling apart, too many countries are falling apart,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council which established the IDMC in 1998 to document the displaced people who, according to him, would otherwise have been “invisible”.
“2021 was, as we documented here, a very dark year and 2022 is turning out to be even worse,” he said, adding that the war in Ukraine would lead to a new record this year.
In total, at the end of last year, 59.1 million people were living in displaced conditions compared to 55 million in 2020, according to the annual report. The countries with the highest number of displaced persons were Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Afghanistan and Yemen.
The report does not take into account refugees – people fleeing to other countries – although there is often a correlation between internal and cross-border trends.
“It’s a crushing indictment of the world’s lack of capacity for conflict prevention and resolution,” Egeland told reporters this week.
He said he was “nervous” about the Ukrainian crisis which diverted aid funds from other locations, saying some countries were using their aid budgets to help Ukrainian refugees.
“That means it’s going to go down, the money we have for the rest of the world,” he said. The war in Ukraine is also increasing the cost of aid for displaced people because it has pushed up the prices of food and fuel, she said.
—Reportage by Emma Farge, edited by Frances Kerry