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Conflicts drive new record of 75.9m people living in internal displacement

May 14, 2024 at 5:00 am

Tents are lining the Grand Canal in Dublin, Ireland, on May 5, 2024, providing shelter for asylum seekers [Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

Conflict and violence in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and occupied Palestine drove the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) around the world to 75.9 million at the end of 2023. This is a new record, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), which published its annual Global Report on Internal Displacement today. Of the total, 68.3m were displaced by conflict and violence and 7.7m by disasters. Almost half, 46 per cent, of all IDPs live in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Sudan, the 9.1m people displaced at the end of the year was the most ever recorded in a single country since records began in 2008. Sudan’s six million internal displacements, or forced movements, by conflict during 2023 were more than its previous 14 years combined and the second most ever recorded in one country after Ukraine’s 16.9 million in 2022. In the Gaza Strip, IDMC calculated 3.4m displacements in the last three months of 2023, which was 17 per cent of total conflict displacements worldwide during the year.

The millions of people forced to flee in 2023 were just the “tip of the iceberg”, said IDMC director Alexandra Bilak, adding to the tens of millions of IDPs already displaced from previous and ongoing conflicts, violence and disasters.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen alarming new levels of people having to flee their homes due to conflict and violence, even in regions where the trend had been improving,” explained Bilak. “Conflict, and the devastation it leaves behind, is keeping millions from rebuilding their lives, often for years on end.”

In the past five years, the number of people living in internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence has increased by 22.6 million, or 49 per cent, with the two biggest increases in 2022 and 2023.

“Millions of families are having their lives torn apart by conflict and violence. We have never, ever recorded so many people forced away from their homes and communities. It is a damning verdict on the failures of conflict prevention and peace-making,” Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, pointed out. “The suffering and the displacement last far beyond the news cycle. Too often their fate ends up in silence and neglect. The lack of protection and assistance that millions endure cannot be allowed to continue.”

Floods, storms, earthquakes, wildfires and other disasters triggered 26.4m displacements in 2023, the third highest annual total in the past ten years. The 7.7m IDPs at the end of 2023 displaced by disasters is the second most since IDMC began recording this metric in 2019.

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The 148 countries reporting disaster displacement include high-income countries such as Canada and New Zealand which reported their highest figures ever. Climate change is making some hazards more frequent and intense, such as cyclone Mocha in the Indian Ocean, Hurricane Otis in Mexico, storm Daniel in the Mediterranean and wildfires in Canada and Greece last summer. It is also making communities more vulnerable and addressing the underlying drivers of displacement more urgent.

“No country is immune to disaster displacement,” said Ms Bilak. “But we can see a difference in how displacement affects people in countries that prepare and plan for its impacts and those that don’t. Those that look at the data and make prevention, response and long-term development plans that consider displacement fare far better.”

As in previous years, floods and storms caused the most disaster displacement, including in south-eastern Africa where cyclone Freddy triggered 1.4m movements across six countries and territories. Earthquakes and volcanic activity triggered 6.1m displacements in 2023, as many as in the past seven years combined. The earthquakes that struck Turkiye and Syria triggered 4.7m displacements, one of the largest disaster displacement events since records began in 2008.

IDMC is the world’s leading source of data and analysis on internal displacement. It provides high-quality data, analysis and expertise on internal displacement to inform policy and operational decisions that can improve the lives of internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide and reduce the risk of future displacement. IDMC was established in 1998 and is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council.