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Record number of people displaced by conflict and disaster – report

Ukrainian evacuees queue as they wait for further transport at the Medyka border crossing on March 29 2022
Ukrainian evacuees queue as they wait for further transport at the Medyka border crossing on March 29 2022 Copyright Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP
Copyright Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP
By Andrew Naughtie
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New data shows an all-time high of 71.1 million internally displaced people, with war in Ukraine exacerbating food insecurity

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The number of people displaced by conflict and disaster in their home countries hit a record high last year, according to new data from a leading international monitor.

In its annual report, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) writes that 71.1 million people were living in internal displacement at the end of 2022, a massive increase on the 59.2 million figure at the end of 2021.

Fully 17 million of last year's displacements were driven by the conflict in Ukraine, the organisation said, while monsoon floods in Pakistan were responsible for 8.2 million.

“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. "There is an increasing need for durable solutions to meet the scale of the challenges facing displaced people."

Crucially, the report draws a clear link between internal displacement and food security, a relationship that flows in two directions. The war in Ukraine has sent a shockwave through the world food system, as vitally important grain cultivation and exports were both suddenly endangered. The ensuing supply crunch, according to the IDMC, has hit already internally displaced people the hardest.

That finding dovetails with another recent report, this one from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, which detailed how the Russian invasion “triggered an unprecedented peak in international food prices”. And many of the countries most affected by both conflict and food insecurity have been experiencing mass internal displacement for years.

In fact, the two reports overlap substantially when it comes to the worst-affected countries. According to the IDMC, almost 75% of the world’s internally displaced people live in 10 countries: Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ukraine, Colombia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan; the FAO, meanwhile, reports that 40% of the world's hungriest people live in DRC, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen alone.

The IDMC report gives detailed accounts of the way different factors are interacting. In DRC there are more than 120 different armed groups still involved in violent conflict, and some 5.7 million people were living in internal displacement in the country by the end of the year.

Some of the armed groups involved have deliberately targeted food stocks – and as the report explains, this leaves displaced people in especially dire situation. "Forced to leave their homes, lands and livelihoods behind when they flee, they become less able to produce food for themselves and their communities, rendering staple items increasingly rare and expensive."

Other countries saw existing displacement crises badly exacerbated by disasters, with around of 31.8 million people forced to leave their homes around the world by floods, droughts and storms alone. The worst-affected region was South Asia, mainly thanks to the massive floods in Pakistan, but the Philippines and China also saw millions of people displaced by natural catastrophes.

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