Conflicts and natural disasters forced tens of millions of people to flee within their own countries last year, pushing the number of displaced people to a record high, observers said Thursday.
Some 59.1 million people were registered as internally displaced globally in 2021, an all-time high set to be broken again this year amid massive displacement inside war-torn Ukraine.
Around 38 million new internal displacements were reported in 2021, with some people forced to flee several times during the year, according to a joint report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). ).
It is the second highest annual number of new internal displacements in a decade after 2020, which saw a record movement due to a series of natural disasters.
And global internal displacement figures are expected to rise only this year, partly due to the war in Ukraine.
More than eight million people have already been internally displaced in the war-ravaged country since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, in addition to the more than six million who have fled Ukraine as than refugees.
“2022 is going to be dark“, told the press the director of the IDMC, Alexandra Bilak. The record numbers seen in 2021, she said, marked “a truly tragic indictment on the state of the world and on peacebuilding efforts in particular.”
In 2021, sub-Saharan Africa had the most internal movements, with more than five million displacements reported in Ethiopia alone, as the country grapples with the raging and spreading conflict in Tigray and a devastating drought.
Unprecedented numbers of displacements were also recorded last year in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, where the return to power of the Taliban, together with drought, forced many people to flee their homes.
The Middle East and North Africa region recorded its lowest number of new displacements in a decade, as conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq defused somewhat, but the total number of people displaced in the region remained high.
Syria, where civil war has raged for more than 11 years, still had the highest number of internally displaced people in the world due to the conflict – 6.7 million – at the end of 2021.
Next come DR Congo with 5.3 million, Colombia with 5.2 million and Afghanistan and Yemen with 4.3 million.
Despite the increase in conflict-related displacement, natural disasters continued to account for most new internal displacement, causing 23.7 million such displacements in 2021.
94% of these were attributed to weather- and climate-related disasters, such as cyclones, monsoon rains, floods and droughts.
Experts say climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of these extreme weather events.
“We need a titanic shift in the thinking of world leaders on how to prevent and resolve conflict to end this growing human suffering,” Egeland said.