Thursday, May 2, 2013

The World's Displaced Population Reaches Record Levels

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the wars in Syria and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have caused the number of displaced people to increase dramatically, with the current world total at 28 million.
Here is some more information from an article in The Guardian (Photo: Kate Holt/Oxfam):

More than 6.5 million people were newly displaced within their own countries in 2012, almost twice as many as the year before, IDMC said in its annual report. Since these people have not crossed borders, they are not refugees and do not benefit from international protection.
The situation in Syria is particularly critical, as it is the world's largest and fastest evolving crisis in terms of new displacements. The number of Syrian internally displaced persons (IDPs) is now more than 3 million, of which 2.4 million were displaced last year.
"The crisis is in its third year and the escalation has gone beyond a tipping point," said Clare Spurrell, an IDMC spokeswoman. "Humanitarians can't save Syria, it has to be the politicians … what you are seeing are people who are utterly exhausted. The internally displaced are completely reliant on others, but host communities are themselves suffering from a lack of food, and diseases are breaking out."
The UN high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, has described the Syrian civil war as the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war, and more brutal and destructive than the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Until the conflict in Syria is resolved, internal displacement will continue to accelerate, said the IDMC, pointing out that this phenomenon has been seen in other countries with drawn-out conflicts.
Colombia has the largest number of IDPs in the world, followed by Syria and the DRC, which has the third largest IDP population. The region with the largest number of IDPs last year was sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 10.4 million IDPs by the end of 2012, almost a third of the world's internally displaced population.
About a million people fled their homes in DRC as a result of attacks from the rebel group M23. In November, 140,000 people fled the North Kivu capital of Goma in a single week as M23 forces entered the city. Conflict in Mali and increased violence in Nigeria from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram also caused large new displacements.
The report suggests that while a resolution to the conflict, particularly in Syria, is critical to dealing with an internal displacement crisis, so too is bridging the gap between emergency response and development.
"Ninety percent of the countries monitored by IDMC have IDPs living in protracted displacement, often for decades, while second and third generations are born into displacement,'' said Kate Halff, director of IDMC. She added: ''Governments are responsible for finding long-term solutions for their displaced citizens. However, they can only be realised when the governments and the international community recognise that people forced from their homes require not only a humanitarian response at the height of a crisis, but sustained engagement until a lasting solution is achieved."
African countries have emerged as pioneers in addressing the problem of IDPs. In December, the Kampala convention, the world's first legally binding instrument to outline the obligations of governments to protect and assist IDPs, came into force.
So far, the convention has been signed, although not necessarily ratified, by 37 of the 53 members of the African Union. It binds governments to provide legal protection for the rights and wellbeing of those forced to flee inside their own countries due to conflict, violence, natural disasters, or development projects. Under the convention, governments must gather data and identify IDPs to understand where they are and what they need, provide personal ID documents, trace families and help to reunite them, and consult IDPs in decisions on their needs.

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