Record numbers of people have been forced from their homes by conflict in a crisis that has received “pitiful” international attention, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council has said.
A total of 41.3 million people were living in a state of internal displacement by the end of 2018 due to violence, researchers for the organization found, with increasing numbers unable to return home for protracted periods. This is a rise of more than a million on the previous year.The number of people forced from their homes but still living in their own country is nearly two-thirds greater than the global total of refugees who have sought shelter abroad.
“Because they haven’t crossed a border, they receive pitiful global attention,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. Millions are being “failed by ineffective national governance and insufficient international diplomacy”.
Without huge global investment in disaster preparedness – an unlikely prospect – the numbers of people displaced will continue to rise, said Alexandra Bilak, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s internal displacement monitoring center.
Tropical cyclones and monsoon floods caused large numbers of people to be evacuated in the Philippines, China and India. Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria, and tensions between communities in Ethiopia, Cameroon and Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, also drove millions from their homes. Afghanistan, which faced its worst drought for a decade on top of protracted conflict, was among several countries that faced both violence and disaster. More than a million people in Iraq attempted to go home last year only to find that the neighborhoods where they once lived were no longer habitable due to landmines.