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Seeking a place called home

Aqilah Rahman

Rapidly escalating conflict and violence combined with natural disasters around the world forced millions to flee within the past year, as the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) globally reached 71.1 million at the end of 2022, an increase of 20 per cent from the previous year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) flagship annual report.

The figure, defined as the number of forced movements of people within the borders of their country, reached a record high of nearly 61 million in 2022 – a 60-per-cent increase compared to 2021. The conflict in Ukraine triggered nearly 17 million displacements, the highest figure ever recorded for any country as people fled repeatedly from rapidly shifting frontlines.

“Today’s displacement crises are growing in scale, complexity and scope, and factors like food insecurity, climate change and escalating and protracted conflicts are adding new layers to this phenomenon,” said IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak.

“Greater resources and further research are essential to help understand and better respond to IDPs’ needs.”

Nearly three-quarters of the world’s IDPs live in just 10 countries, many due to unresolved conflicts that continue to trigger significant displacement. Conflict displacements in 2022 were three times higher than the annual average of the past ten years.

A girl draws water from a pump at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe, Myanmar. PHOTO: AFP

While conflict displacement continues to be a major concern from sub-Saharan Africa to Ukraine, disaster displacement affected more countries last year. Disaster displacement was recorded in 148 countries and territories, and at a scale previously unseen in many.

However, the figure largely omits displacements triggered by slow-onset hazards linked to climate change and is therefore missing a significant part of the picture, the report said.

In 2022, over half of internal displacements were caused by disasters, with 32.6 million in total. The five countries that reported the highest figures are Pakistan (8,168,000), Philippines (5,445,000), China (3,632,000), India (2,507,000) and Nigeria (2,437,000).

Weather-related hazards made up 98 per cent of disaster displacements, of which the top three were floods (19 million), storms (10 million) and drought (2.2 million). Six out of 10 disaster displacements were caused by floods, surpassing storms for the first time since 2016.

The flooding in Pakistan triggered over eight million internal displacements, accounting for a quarter of the year’s global disaster displacement. In some countries, continuous disasters pushed people to move repeatedly.

As the La Nina weather phenomenon entered its third consecutive year, countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil experienced record levels of flood displacement. Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya experienced the worst drought on record.

Internal displacements by conflict and violence totalled up to 28.3 million. The five countries that reported the highest figures are Ukraine (16,870,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (4,004,000), Ethiopia (2,032,000), Myanmar (1,006,000) and Somalia (621,000).

Overall, conflict and violence left 62.5 million people living in displacement across 65 countries and territories at the end of 2022. Disasters accounted for 8.7 million people across 88 countries and territories.

The report also highlights an overlap between internal displacement and food insecurity.

The five countries with the highest numbers of acutely food-insecure people in 2022 were home to more than 26 million IDPs, over a third of the global total.

The war in Ukraine has had cascading effects on the global supply chains and food prices, given that Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s main producers of fertiliser and grain.

The report also highlighted that internal displacement has significant impacts on food security for both displaced and non-displaced populations.

Regardless of the trigger, IDPs tends to lower their food intake and their food insecurity tends to worsen the more often they are displaced.

For individuals who rely on natural resources as a source of food and income such as farming, many are unable to find alternative income-generating activities in new areas particularly when they move to urban settings.

Unconditional cash assistance is a vital means of supporting the immediate needs of people affected by displacement and food insecurity, said the report. Beyond providing cash assistance and social protection, supporting the livelihoods of IDPs is key to their self-reliance and sustainable recovery.

Agriculture is one of the examples mentioned in the report, as humanitarian partners in Cameroon worked hand-in-hand with people displaced in the Far North region. IDPs from different backgrounds skills were given the resources and training to support their livelihoods via agriculture both in the short and long term.

In order to meet the scale of challenges faced by displaced individuals, investments are also needed in risk reduction measures that strengthen the resilience of displaced communities according to the report.

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