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A Record 55 Million People Displaced Last Year


Three internally displaced families live inside the (Masjid Muaathe) Muad ibn Jabal Mosque,Debaja, west of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 29, 2020.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reports the number of people displaced inside their own countries because of conflict, violence and weather-related disasters reached an all-time high of 55 million by the end of 2020.

Experts tracking these events thought sanity would prevail during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in fewer conflicts and triggering fewer forced displacements.

They also hoped global efforts against climate change to prevent disasters would protect more people.

However, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, says the verdict is in and it is not good. He says last year, conflict and disasters caused more than 40 million new displacements, with some people being forced to move many times out of their homes.

"Forty million times a child, a woman, or a man was displaced in 2020," said Egeland. "That is more than one person per second, and it is continuing, so…a lot of people have been displaced also in 2021 while we speak.”

The report says Syria has the highest number of internally displaced people, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia. It says sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa generated 90 percent of all new conflict-related displacements.

The director of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, Alexandra Bilak, says escalating violence in Ethiopia and strengthening of extremist groups in Mozambique and Burkina Faso fueled some of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises.

"In Ethiopia, we are looking at over half a million new displacements that were triggered by violence in the Tigray region alongside, as you know, reports of human rights violations and abuses," said Bilak. "But across the rest of the continent, we saw how armed groups exploited simmering disputes and expanded their influence across the Sahel, as well as in Nigeria, Somalia and Mozambique.”

Weather-related events, primarily storms and floods, were responsible for 98 percent of all new disaster displacements recorded last year. The report says nearly 70 percent took place in South Asia and East Asia, and the Pacific.

Elsewhere, it says the Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, with 30 main storms. It notes hurricanes Laura, Eta and Iota alone triggered 2.7 million new displacements across 14 Central American and Caribbean countries.

It adds 1.7 million displacements were recorded in the United States from devastating wildfires and hurricanes. Authors of the report cite this as an important reminder that high-income countries are just as exposed to disasters as low-and-middle-income countries.

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