Geneva — An annual report on forced displacement released on Wednesday says that a record 33.3 million people were internally displaced at the end of 2013 due to conflict and violence, up a staggering 4.5 million from a year earlier.
The Global Overview 2014, published by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and covering internal displacement in 2013, reported that 63 per cent of these internally displaced people (IDPs) were from just five countries: Syria, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Sudan. Including figures for Nigeria for the first time, the report documents that an astounding, 3.3 million Nigerians have been displaced by conflict.
"This record number of people forced to flee inside their own countries confirms a disturbing upward trend of internal displacement since IDMC first began monitoring and analysing displacement back in the late 1990s," said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, of which the IDMC is a part.
"The dramatic increase in forced displacement in 2013 and the fact that the average amount of time people worldwide are living in displacement is now a staggering 17 years, all suggest that something is going terribly wrong in how we are responding and dealing with this issue," said Egeland, who attended the launch of the report.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said people should "be concerned about these numbers and the continuing upwards trend. We have a shared responsibility to act to end this massive suffering. Immediate protection and assistance for the internally displaced is a humanitarian imperative."
By the end of last year, 8.2 million people were newly displaced, an increase of 1.6 million compared to the year before. A shocking 43 per cent of all the people newly displaced in 2013 were in Syria.
"The IDMC report reveals a frightening reality of life inside Syria, now the largest internal displacement crisis in the world," said Egeland. "Not only do armed groups control the areas where internal displacement camps are located, these camps are badly managed, provide inadequate shelter, sanitation and limited aid delivery." Further to this, the IDMC report reveals how large concentrations of IDPs have been particularly targeted by artillery bombardments and airstrikes.
With 9,500 people a day - about one family every 60 seconds - being displaced inside Syria, the country remains the largest and fastest evolving displacement crisis in the world.
The three countries experiencing the worst levels of new displacement were Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which together accounted for 67 per cent of the 8.2 million people newly displaced in the year.
"That these three countries appear top of the IDMC list reveals an alarming reality," said Alfredo Zamudio, director of IDMC. "They account not only for those fleeing from relatively new crises, as in Syria and CAR, but are also reflective of the horrendous situations still faced by innocent people stuck in the midst of protracted conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has suffered persistent turmoil dating back to the mid 1990's."
Egeland said the trends shown in the report did not bode well for the future. "We have to sit up, listen up and act up by working more closely together to end this misery for millions; humanitarians alone cannot make this happen," he said, adding: "We all have a role to play."
UNHCR, which helps millions of IDPs, works closely with the Norwegian Refugee Council and the IDMC.
For the report, go to http://www.internal-displacement.org/about-us/idmc-media-centre