GENEVA (AN) — Disasters in the Philippines, China, India and the United States combined with conflicts in Ethiopia, Congo and Syria drove those nations atop a list of places that contributed to a staggering 28 million people newly uprooted from their homes within their own countries in 2018, according to a new report on Friday.
The new displacements last year — which can include multiple displacements by the same person — were associated with disasters and conflicts across 148 countries and territories, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, or IDMC, said in a global report.
Extreme weather events linked to global warming accounted for most of the 17.2 million in new displacements associated with natural disasters; conflict accounted for the other 10.8 million.
Tropical cyclones and monsoon floods caused mass displacement in the Philippines, China and India, three countries with the most internal displacements from natural disasters. In the United States, the fourth-ranking nation on that list, California suffered the most destructive wildfires in its history, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Drought in Afghanistan triggered even more displacement than the country’s armed conflict, IDMC reported, while the crisis in northeastern Nigeria was aggravated by flooding that affected 80 per cent of the nation.
The 28 million new internal displacements — a technical term for people who, for emergency reasons, must abandon their homes but who, unlike refugees, do not cross international borders — boosted the overall figure to a record 41.3 million people worldwide classified as internally displaced people in 2018, said IDMC.
That represented an increase of 1 million people from the end of 2017, it said, making for a total number that was two-thirds larger even than the 25.4 million refugees worldwide.
“This year’s report is a sad reminder of the recurrence of displacement, and of the severity and urgency of IDPs’ needs," Alexandra Bilak, IDMC's director, said in a statement. "Many of the same factors that drove people from their homes now prevent them from returning or finding solutions in the places they have settled."
An increasingly urban problem
IDMC, set up in 1998 as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, or NRC, has become the world's authoritative source of data and analysis on internal displacement.
NRC's Secretary-General Jan Egeland, a veteran diplomat who has held numerous high-level U.N. positions, called the report "a wake-up call" that should prompt world leaders to focus more attention on people who are not refugees, but who must leave behind their homes due to life-threatening conflicts, violence and disasters.
"Millions of people forced to flee their homes last year are being failed by ineffective national governance and insufficient international diplomacy. Because they haven't crossed a border, they receive pitiful global attention,” Egeland said in a statement. “All displaced people have a right to protection and the international community has a duty to ensure it.”
Internal displacement has become increasingly urban, IDMC said, with street fighting in Syria, Yemen and Libya accounting for much of the displacement recorded in the Middle East last year.
Urban centers like Bangladesh's capital Dhaka were popular destinations for people fleeing the effects of global warming, it said, and local governments and communities in cities such as Medellín, Colombia and Mosul, Iraq have begun taking the lead in coming up with new ways to deal with internal displacement.
“The fact that cities have become sanctuary to more and more internally displaced people represents a challenge for municipal authorities, but also an opportunity," said Bilak. "Leveraging the positive role that local government can play in finding solutions to displacement will be key to addressing this challenge in the future."