Escalating Crisis: Internally Displaced People Reaches Unprecedented 75.9 Million

3 mins

Conflict and natural disasters mean almost 76 million people were displaced within their own countries last year

Conflicts and natural disasters left a record nearly 76 million people displaced within their own countries last year, with violence in the Middle East, Sudan and the Congo driving two-thirds of new movement.

Almost 90 per cent of the total displacement was attributed to conflict and violence, while some 10 per cent stemmed from the impact of natural disasters.

The figures include a total of 3.4 million movements within Gaza in the last quarter of 2023 due to Israeli attacks. This indicates that many people moved more than once within the territory of some 2.2 million. At the end of the year, 1.7 million people were displaced in the Palestinian territory.

Displaced Palestinians coming from Jabalia Camp and Beit Hanoun to stay in the government shelter school in the city of Rafah, southern of the Gaza Strip
Displaced Palestinians stay in the government shelter school in the city of Rafah, southern of the Gaza Strip.

The UN-backed report counted 46.9 million physical movements of people in 2023 — in addition to an estimated 29 million displaced earlier.

‘As the planet grapples with conflicts and disasters, the staggering numbers of 47 million new internal displacements tells a harrowing tale,’ said UN International Organization for Migration Deputy Director General Ugochi Daniels.

The figures were compiled by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center which found that the number of internally displaced people, or IDPs, has jumped by 50 per cent over the past five years and roughly doubled in the past decade.

This figure doesn’t cover refugees — displaced people who fled to another country.

internally displaced women in Africa carrying babies
Half of those displaced are in sub-Saharan African countries. Credit Mark Condren UNICEF

Some 75.9 million people were living in internal displacement at the end of last year, the report said, with half of those in sub-Saharan African countries.

.The majority of IDPs face significant challenges, including a lack of economic opportunities, access to education and healthcare, and heightened risks of abuse and exploitation.

Displaced by Natural Disasters

Natural disasters also continued to drive millions from their homes.

In 2023, disasters such as Cyclone Freddy in southeast Africa, earthquakes in Turkey and Syria and Cyclone Mocha in the Indian Ocean led to 26.4 million displacements, making up 56 per cent of the total new internal displacements.

Notably, there was an increase in disaster-induced displacements in high-income countries, highlighted by Canada’s unprecedented wildfire season, which caused 185,000 internal displacements.

A forest wildfire occurring in Yukon Territory, Canada, generating smoke that fills the sky and obscures the sun
Canada’s unprecedented wildfire season caused 185,000 internal displacements

‘The verdict of this report is that we are in a deep crisis globally because we have never, ever recorded worse figures for internal displacement by violence, by conflict, by persecution,’ said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which runs the project.

The figures offer a different take into the impact of conflict, climate change and other factors on human movement.

The UN refugee agency monitors displacement across borders but not within countries, while the UN migration agency tracks all movements of people, including for economic or lifestyle reasons.

Monitoring  director Alexandra Bilak said the millions of people forced to flee in 2023 were the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ on top of tens of millions displaced from earlier and continuing conflicts, violence and disasters.

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