Child in typhoon debris

A boy sits in debris from what used to be his home after Super Typhoon Odette hit the Philippines in December of 2021. (Photo: UNICEF/UN0570020/Hogsholt)

War, Disasters Drive 'All-Time High' of Nearly 60 Million Displaced in Home Nations

The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council noted the situation "is phenomenally worse than even our record figure suggests" because it does not include those forced to flee Russia's assault on Ukraine.

Conflict, violence, and disasters last year displaced nearly 60 million people within their own countries--an "unprecedented" number that underscores the need for sizeable investments in peacebuilding and development, according to a report released Thursday.

"We need a titanic shift in thinking from world leaders on how to prevent and resolve conflicts to end this soaring human suffering."

The new Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) annual assessment highlights that while "disasters, mostly cyclones and floods, continued to trigger most internal displacements, or movements," the majority of the 59.1 million people "have fled conflict and violence."

The Geneva-based group's Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID) 2022 shows that there were over 38 million movements last year--14.4 million conflicts displaced 53.2 million people while 23.7 million disasters displaced 5.9 million people.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council--which started the IDMC in 1998--pointed out Thursday that "the situation today is phenomenally worse than even our record figure suggests, as it doesn't include nearly eight million people forced to flee the war in Ukraine."

"We need a titanic shift in thinking from world leaders on how to prevent and resolve conflicts to end this soaring human suffering," he said, as Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine after launching a long-awaited invasion in late February.

GRID 22 breakdown

Along with providing global figures revealing the "all-time high" of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the report largely focuses on how the forced relocations across 141 countries and territories impact 33 million children and young people worldwide--including 25.2 million who are under the age of 18.

"Millions are forced to flee their homes every year, leaving many unable to go to school, without enough to eat, with little access to healthcare, at risk of abuse and violence, and traumatized by the events they have witnessed," the document states. "Displacement can also tear families apart to the severe detriment of their well-being."

"Peacebuilding and development initiatives are needed to resolve the underlying challenges that hold displaced people's lives in limbo."

"Protecting them from abuse and supporting their health, well-being, and education not only safeguards their rights, but also contributes to a more stable future for all," adds the publication, which spotlights promising practices to serve displaced children with disabilities as well as the benefits of improved access to education for girls.

In the report's foreword, Catherine Russell and Audrey Azouley--head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), respectively--wrote that "whether the world's displaced children flourish or fall behind depends on our commitment to them and to their communities' well-being."

IDMC's director, Alexandra Bilak, said Thursday that "children and young people are agents of change."

"Recognizing them as such is vital to protect development gains and reduce the risk of future crises," she continued. "Preparing the world of tomorrow must start with their active participation and leadership."

Along with the toll that forced relocations take on individuals, there are economic and social impacts. According to the report: "The average economic impact per IDP for a year of displacement is about $360, based on data from 18 countries. The figure ranges from $90 in Colombia to about $710 in Libya."

"Across the countries analyzed, the highest economic impacts stem from loss of livelihoods and the cost of providing IDPs with support for their basic needs, including healthcare, food, and nutrition," the publication states. "The Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing conflict and disasters have aggravated food insecurity among IDPs in many countries and increased their reliance on humanitarian assistance."

The report's separate section on Covid-19 points out that "comprehensive data is lacking, but several studies and program insights confirm that the pandemic was uniquely threatening to people on the move. Rather than acting as a leveler, it has aggravated structural inequities and vulnerabilities."

The document also details displacement conditions by regions of the world. Both sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia and the Pacific experienced over a third of the tracked displacements--mostly conflict in the former and disasters in the latter. The report repeatedly notes that the worsening climate emergency will mean more frequent and intense disasters, from heatwaves to tropical storms.

global map

The report's broad recommendations are:

  • Investment in peacebuilding and development initiatives that offer IDPs options to return home, integrate locally, or resettle elsewhere are needed to resolve protracted displacement.
  • Beyond the direct impacts of displacement on individual youth, we must better understand how they have longer term consequences on future societies.
  • Children and young people are agents of change. Preparing the world of tomorrow must start with their active participation and leadership.
  • Filling the data gaps will help us to understand their specific needs, aspirations and potential; and to support them with tailored, inclusive responses.

"The trend toward long-term displacement will never be reversed unless safe and sustainable conditions are established for IDPs to return home, integrate locally, or resettle elsewhere," Bilak warned. "Peacebuilding and development initiatives are needed to resolve the underlying challenges that hold displaced people's lives in limbo."

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