Deadly violence and escalating conflict forced nearly 12 million people to flee from their homes and seek refuge within their own country last year, the highest level of such internal displacement in 10 years, international monitors revealed Wednesday.
A total of 11.8 million people around the world found their everyday lives thoroughly and irrevocably disrupted by domestic uprooting that scattered them precariously all over the country in 2017 — nearly double the 6.9 million who suffered the same fate a year earlier, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
The newly displaced brings the total number of people living in internal displacement due to conflict close to 40 million worldwide, the study estimated. This “is the highest number that we have recorded in a decade,” IDMC chief Alexandra Bilak told reporters in Geneva.
“The staggering number of people forced to flee from their homes due to conflict and violence must serve as an eye-opener to us all,” NRC chief Jan Egeland solemnly reflected in a public statement.
The report found that 76 percent of those newly dispossessed last year were noticeably concentrated in just 10 countries, with Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq alone accounting for more than half.
Syria, for instance, saw an additional 2.9 million people domestically uprooted last year, many of them for a second or third time since the start of the conflict in 2011, bringing the total number of people internally displaced in the war-ravaged country to around 6.8 million.
The currently besieged and bombarded, poorest Arab country of Yemen, which previously topped the list, no longer figures even among the top-ten, but Bilak stressed that its fallen status was due to lack of access and reliable data, not an improvement in their domestic circumstances, and that the situation in the conflict-torn country remained extremely dire.
Bilak warned that the total number of derelict people around the world could be far higher than calculated, pointing out that there was a lack of information about the destiny of some 8.5 million people who had been reported to have relocated or returned home.
“We don’t have any credible information that might indicate that these people have returned to a sustainable situation,” she said.
80,000 Displaced Daily
The report also found that 18.8 million people across 135 countries were displaced last year by natural disasters, such as floods, storms and cyclones.
Combined with those who fled conflicts, nearly 31 million people were thus freshly displaced inside their own country last year — the equivalent of more than 80,000 a day.
In terms of disaster-related displacement, the worst affected countries were China, the Philippines, Cuba and the United States.
The three major Atlantic hurricanes last year, Harvey, Irma and Maria, alone displaced around three million people.
While countries maintain statistics on citizens still estranged by deadly conflict, long-term data for people upended by natural disasters generally does not exist, Bilak said.
“There is a huge knowledge gap for us when it comes to disaster-related displacement,” she lamented.
For Puerto Rico, for instance, data shows that some 86,000 people were forced out of their homes by Hurricane Maria last year, but there is no information on how many are still displaced.
In light of the massive destruction on the US territory, much of which is still badly in need of critical repairs or reconstructions, “we can only assume that many people out of those 86,000 … are still displaced today,” Bilak said.
* This article was expanded from original report published May 16, 2018 by Agence France Presse.