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Global violence causing record numbers of internally displaced people | Global development

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Global violence causing record numbers of internally displaced people | Global development

Conflict has forced more than 68 million people to leave their homes as of the end of 2023 – the highest figure since data became available 15 years ago.

Natural disasters made a further 7.7 million people homeless, pushing the total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) to a record 75.9 million, according to figures published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre on Tuesday.

The rise in displacements is the result of both new wars and older, drawn-out conflicts that have made it impossible for citizens to return home.

Christelle Cazabat, the head of programmes at the centre, which is part of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said: “Not only do we have new crises starting or old crises that are being reignited, prompting more people to be newly displaced, but also, perhaps more importantly, the people who have been displaced for years, sometimes even decades, who are not able to start their lives anew or live in the way they did before their displacement.”

There is a distinction between IDPs and displacements. For example, Gaza recorded 3.4m displacements, or movements, leading to 1.7 million people being internally displaced by the end of last year, because people were forced to move multiple times.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of IDPs has more than doubled, from 16.5 million in 2018 to 34.8 million in 2023. There were 19.5m displacements – movements – in the region, with Sudan making up for 45% of that number and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recording the second-highest amount. Between them, they comprised almost half the world’s displacements last year.

Sudan accounted for most of the conflict-related displacement in the region. The violence that broke out last April caused 6m new movements in 2023 – the second-highest figure recorded since Ukraine in 2022 – bringing the total number of IDPs in the country to 9.1 million.

The renewed insurgency launched by M23 rebels in DRC last year has pushed the number of IDPs to 6.7 million.

The figures also show that 7.2 million people were still internally displaced in Syria, 10 years after conflict began and despite a slowdown in fighting. About 7.6 million were recorded displaced in 2014.

In Yemen, despite a truce that has broadly held since April 2022, the number of internally displaced has remained at 4.5 million over the past year, while the number of people displaced in Iraq has been about 1.1 million for three years.

There were 1.7 million people internally displaced in Gaza by the end of 2023. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

The centre said IDPs needed more support to help them to return home or integrate them into the communities in which they are displaced.

Cazabat said internal displacement is still mostly seen as a temporary situation, addressed through emergency assistance but it needs long-term support and solutions.

“It’s wrong to think that all displaced people will come back to their homes after a few weeks, maybe after a few months and then just start their lives where they left it,” she said.

“How could the people get back to their normal lives tomorrow, even with a ceasefire or even in a few months? It’s going to take years to rebuild the houses that have been destroyed.”

Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said: “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.

“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.”

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