Record 50 million people internally displaced in 2019, study finds

Covid-19 is likely to impact aid for people forced from their homes by conflict and disaster around the world, experts warn

A total of 50.8 million people around the world were recorded as internally displaced last year, forced from their homes by conflict and disaster. This is the highest number ever, and 10 million more than in 2018.

Annual statistics published by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) calculated that by the end of 2019, 45.7 million people were internally displaced – effectively becoming refugees in their own country – as a result of violence in 61 countries. An additional 5.1 million people in 96 countries had been displaced by disasters.

Alexandra Bilak, the IDMC director, said she had hoped internal displacement would receive more global attention this year, following the launch in October of a UN high-level panel to address the problem and find long-term solutions. The panel held its first meeting in February.

However, Covid-19 was expected to shift focus away, she said. “We were so hoping this year would be really the wake-up call to the international community, with the new high-level panel on internal displacement. We thought this year would be the year of internal displacement,” said Bilak.

She said it was too early to assess the full impact of the coronavirus on displacement and the efforts to address it, but was worried about future funding.

“If we’re about to plunge into a recession, of course it’s going to have an impact on the generosity of donor governments,” she said. “It’s going to be a really bad situation for everybody.”

Bilak added there was great concern for the safety of people who have been displaced. “IDPs (internally displaced people) are often highly vulnerable people living in crowded camps, emergency shelters and informal settlements with little or no access to healthcare. The global coronavirus pandemic will make them more vulnerable still. It will compromise their already precarious living conditions, by further limiting their access to essential services and humanitarian aid.”

Bilak said the Norwegian Refugee Council and other humanitarian agencies were already reporting that government restrictions were affecting the delivery of aid.

The report, published on Tuesday, showed that the majority of new cases of displacement last year were in poorer countries.

The highest number were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa, where escalating violence and deteriorating security in the Sahel and ongoing conflict in Somalia and South Sudan continued to drive hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Tropical storms and monsoon rains in south and east Asia and the Pacific had also displaced millions. India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and China each recorded at least 4 million displacements, although the majority were the result of evacuations by their governments.

By the end of last year, more than 130,000 people were still unable to return home after the devastation of cyclones Idai and Kenneth.

Bilak warned that next year’s displacement report was “going to be extremely difficult” to compile as people responsible for collecting data may struggle to do so under current restrictions. “We could end up with a black hole of data,” she said.


Liz Ford

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Record 68.5 million people fleeing war or persecution worldwide
As data shows one in every 110 people is displaced, UN special envoy Angelina Jolie warns of ‘terrible human consequences’ of Syria’s aid shortfall

Peter Beaumont

19, Jun, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
One in every 113 people forced to flee, says UN refugee agency
As number of people driven from home exceeds 60 million for first time, UN refugee agency sounds alarm over failure of nations to find collective solutions

Sam Jones

20, Jun, 2016 @8:59 AM

Article image
Nearly half of all refugees are children, says Unicef
Report shows child refugee figures have jumped by 75% in five years to 8 million, and calls for urgent action to protect the 50 million child migrants worldwide

Kate Hodal

07, Sep, 2016 @12:01 AM

Article image
Covid limits migration despite more people displaced by war and disasters
IOM report finds 9m more people displaced globally but mobility restricted due to pandemic, with vaccination proving a key factor

Kaamil Ahmed

01, Dec, 2021 @4:17 PM

Article image
Wars push number of internally displaced people to record levels

Crises in Syria and Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2012 help push total figure of people displaced worldwide to 28 million

Mark Tran

29, Apr, 2013 @8:00 AM

Article image
Forcibly displaced now account for 1% of humanity – UN report
Almost 80 million people are refugees or internally displaced, with the number doubling in the past decade

Kaamil Ahmed

18, Jun, 2020 @11:11 AM

Article image
EU support for Libya contributes to 'extreme abuse' of refugees, says study
Human Rights Watch accuses EU institutions of sustaining network of ‘inhuman and degrading’ migrant detention centres

Peter Beaumont

21, Jan, 2019 @5:30 AM

Article image
Number of people displaced by conflict 'equivalent to UK population of 65m'
Report by World Bank and UN highlights the scale and economic impact of displacement caused by conflict worldwide

Larry Elliott Economics editor

15, Sep, 2016 @5:39 PM

Article image
Climate disasters ‘caused more internal displacement than war’ in 2020
Refugee organisation says 30m new displacements last year were due to floods, storms or wildfires

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

20, May, 2021 @4:30 AM

Article image
World’s poorest bear brunt of climate crisis: 10 underreported emergencies
Care International report highlights ‘deep injustice’ neglected by world’s media, as extreme weather along with Covid wipes out decades of progress

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

14, Jan, 2022 @6:15 AM