Record 50 mil­lion peo­ple dis­placed in­ter­nally

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

GENEVA: Con­flict and dis­as­ter forced more than 33 mil­lion peo­ple to flee within their own coun­tries last year, putting them at greater risk amid the global COVID-19 pan­demic, mon­i­tors said yes­ter­day. The new fig­ure brings the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing in in­ter­nal dis­place­ment to a record 50.8 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the In­ter­nal Dis­place­ment Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­tre (IDMC) and the Nor­we­gian Refugee Coun­cil (NRC).

The num­ber of in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple (IDPs) is far higher than the some 26 mil­lion who have fled across bor­ders as refugees. “IDPs are of­ten highly vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple liv­ing in crowded camps, emer­gency shel­ters and in­for­mal set­tle­ments with lit­tle or no ac­cess to health­care,” IDMC di­rec­tor Alexandra Bi­lak said in a state­ment. “The global coro­n­avirus pan­demic will make them more vul­ner­a­ble still,” she said, warn­ing it would “com­pro­mise their al­ready pre­car­i­ous liv­ing con­di­tions by fur­ther lim­it­ing their ac­cess to es­sen­tial ser­vices and hu­man­i­tar­ian aid.”

The re­port found that con­flict forced 8.5 mil­lion IDPs to flee last year in coun­tries like Syria, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Ethiopia and South Su­dan. To­gether with those al­ready dis­placed, more than 45 mil­lion peo­ple live in in­ter­nal dis­place­ment brought on by con­flict, in­clud­ing nearly 6.5 mil­lion in Syria, which has been rav­aged by nine years of civil war. An­other 5.1 mil­lion peo­ple were liv­ing in in­ter­nal dis­place­ment due to nat­u­ral disasters at the end of 2019, out of nearly 25 mil­lion who fled their homes due to such disasters through­out the year

‘Fail­ing by epic pro­por­tions’ “Year af­ter year, con­flict and vi­o­lence up­root mil­lions of peo­ple from their homes,” NRC chief Jan Ege­land said in the state­ment. “Col­lec­tively, we are fail­ing by epic pro­por­tions to pro­tect the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble,” he lamented, call­ing for con­certed ac­tion and in­sist­ing that “in this age of coro­n­avirus, con­tin­ued po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence is ut­terly sense­less.”

Some 4.5 mil­lion were forced to flee their homes by cy­clone Fani in In­dia and Bangladesh, cy­clones Idai and Ken­neth in Mozam­bique and hur­ri­cane Do­rian in the Ba­hamas. Heavy and pro­longed rains and flood­ing in Africa forced an­other two mil­lion peo­ple into in­ter­nal dis­place­ment last year, the re­port said. But Bi­lak noted to AFP that most dis­place­ments due to nat­u­ral disasters were ac­tu­ally “gov­ern­ment-led, pre­emp­tive evac­u­a­tions to save lives and pro­tect peo­ple” and that most peo­ple are able to re­turn home rel­a­tively quickly, “as long as their home has not been com­pletely de­stroyed”.

Go­ing for­ward, Bi­lak warned that the coro­n­avirus pan­demic could make it more dif­fi­cult for coun­tries to take the steps needed to evac­u­ate be­fore weather haz­ards hit, since thou­sands of peo­ple should not be crowded to­gether in shel­ters. “How you bal­ance those time-sen­si­tive hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief ef­forts with your na­tional ef­fort to fight the spread of COVID is go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing act,” she said. — AFP

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