Geneva, Switzerland: Last year, conflict and natural disasters prompted someone to flee within their own nation every second, bringing the number of people living in internal displacement to a new high, according to monitors.
Despite stringent mobility restrictions placed around the world in an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, which analysts had expected to reduce displacement numbers last year, this happened.
According to a joint analysis by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council, the year 2020 was defined by violent storms, ongoing wars, and outbursts of violence, prompting 40.5 million people to become newly displaced within their nations (NRC).
According to the research, this is the biggest number of newly displaced persons reported in ten years, bringing the total number of people living in internal displacement worldwide to a record 55 million.
“Both numbers this year were unusually high,” IDMC director Alexandra Bilak told AFP, saying the surge in internal displacement was “unprecedented”.
The number of internally displaced individuals has more than doubled since the year 2000 when 26 million people crossed borders as refugees.
“It’s shocking that someone was forced to flee their home inside their own country every single second last year,” NRC chief Jan Egeland said in a statement.
“We are failing to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from conflict and disasters.”
‘Numbers could increase.’
“These high figures were observed against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Bilak said, adding that it was “especially worrying.”
Pointing out that movement restrictions obstructed data collection and “fewer people sought out emergency shelters for fear of infection”, she suggested the true figures were higher.
The pandemic had meanwhile exacerbated socioeconomic conditions for displaced people, she said, warning that “those numbers may rise even more as countries go down further into an economic crisis.”
According to the survey, natural disasters, particularly those related to extreme weather, were responsible for three-quarters of those who left within the country last year.
Intense storms, monsoon rains, and floods wreaked havoc on Asia’s and Pacific’s most exposed and densely inhabited areas, while the Atlantic hurricane season “was the most active on record,” according to the report.
“Extended rainy seasons across the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa uprooted millions more.”
Effects on the environment
Climate warming, according to experts, is increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather occurrences.
“We can only expect with the future impacts of climate change for these disasters to become more frequent and more intense, and therefore for the numbers of internally displaced people to grow,” Bilak said.
According to the research, roughly 10 million of those who were newly displaced last year were escaping conflicts and violence.
In Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso, increased violence and the development of extremist organizations fueled some of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises last year, according to the report.
Long-running hostilities in Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also forced enormous numbers of people to emigrate.
Unlike disaster-related displacement, which is usually temporary as people return to rebuild their houses once the storms pass, conflict-related displacement can persist for years.
According to the research, all but seven million of the 55 million individuals living in internal displacement at the end of last year were fleeing warfare.
It also cautioned that a confluence of wars and natural disasters was exacerbating the problem, with 95 percent of new conflict displacements last year coming in countries exposed to climate change’s effects.
“Climate change and the overexploitation of natural resources may aggravate instability and conflict, which in turn may trigger displacement.”