People in gaza wave white flags and raise their hands
People wave white flags and raise their hands as they reach the central Gaza Strip on their way to the southern part of besieged enclave on November 5, 2023.
(Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

Record 76 Million Internally Displaced in 2023, Largely Due to Violence

"We have never, ever recorded so many people forced away from their homes and communities," one expert said. "It is a damning verdict on the failures of conflict prevention and peacemaking."

War, conflict, and environmental disasters displaced a record 75.9 million people from their homes at the end of 2023, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported Tuesday.

The vast majority of the displaced—68.3 million—were forced from their homes due to conflicts, the highest number since data became available 15 years ago.

"Millions of families are having their lives torn apart by conflict and violence," Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council—which houses IDMC—said in a statement. "We have never, ever recorded so many people forced away from their homes and communities. It is a damning verdict on the failures of conflict prevention and peacemaking."

"This report is a stark reminder of the urgent and coordinated need to expand disaster risk reduction, support peacebuilding, ensure the protection of human rights, and, whenever possible, prevent the displacement before it happens."

The IDMC publishes its Global Report on Internal Displacement every year, which is considered the definitive source for data on internal displacements worldwide. This year's report notes that the number of people displaced within their own countries increased by 51% in the last five years while the number displaced by conflict alone swelled by 49%, spiking in 2022 and 2023. The uptick was primarily due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as renewed or ongoing conflicts in Congo, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

"Over the past two years, we've seen alarming new levels of people having to flee their homes due to conflict and violence, even in regions where the trend had been improving," said IDMC director Alexandra Bilak. "Conflict, and the devastation it leaves behind, is keeping millions from re-building their lives, often for years on end."

In addition to tracking the number of displaced people, the IDMC also looked at the total number of new displacements in 2023. It recorded 46.9 million new movements—20.5 million due to war and conflict and 26.4 million due to natural disasters.

"As the planet grapples with conflicts and disasters, the staggering numbers of 47 million new internal displacements tells a harrowing tale," International Organization for Migration Deputy Director General Ugochi Daniels said in a statement. "This report is a stark reminder of the urgent and coordinated need to expand disaster risk reduction, support peacebuilding, ensure the protection of human rights, and, whenever possible, prevent the displacement before it happens."

Of the 20.5 million conflict-driven displacements last year, nearly two-thirds were due to violence in Sudan, Congo, and Palestine.

In Sudan, renewed hostilities between government and paramilitary forces ignited in April of last year, forcing 6 million new movements and leaving 9.1 million displaced.

"This figure is the highest ever reported for a single country globally since 2008," the report authors wrote.

All told, conflict forced 13.5 million displacements in sub-Saharan Africa, the highest number for the region in 15 years.

Nearly 17% of total conflict displacements in 2023 were forced in Gaza, even though Israel only began its war on the enclave during the last quarter of the year. Although it was only home to around 2.3 million people at the start of the war, Gaza saw 3.4 million displacements, as many people were forced to move multiple times.

"This figure should be considered conservative, because many people were displaced within governorates before moving across them, but such movements were unaccounted for," the report authors explained.

By the end of 2023, around 1.7 million people in Gaza—or 83% of the population— were displaced, "all of them facing acute humanitarian needs," the authors wrote.

The report also says that 7.7 million people were living outside their homes by the end of 2023 due to disasters such as extreme weather and geological events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The 26.4 million disaster-driven displacements were the third-highest amount in the last 10 years.

Displacing disasters in 2023 included climate change-fueled events like cyclone Freddy—which caused 1.4 million displacements in southeast Africa—and Canada's record wildfire season, which fueled 185,000 displacements, the highest number for Canada on record.

"No country is immune to disaster displacement," Bilak said. "But we can see a difference in how displacement affects people in countries that prepare and plan for its impacts and those that don't. Those that look at the data and make prevention, response, and long-term development plans that consider displacement fare far better."

Egeland called for more attention to the plight of displaced people after the initial trigger fades from the headlines.

"The suffering and the displacement last far beyond the news cycle," Egeland said. "Too often their fate ends up in silence and neglect. The lack of protection and assistance that millions endure cannot be allowed to continue."

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