GENEVA: Conflict forced more than 10 million people to flee their homes to live elsewhere within their own country last year, bringing the total number of people internally displaced by violence to a record high, monitors said on Friday.

The new figure brings the total number of people currently living in internal displacement due to violence to 41.3m, an all-time high, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monito­ring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

“It is really a mind-boggling figure,” NRC chief Jan Egeland told reporters in Geneva.

The total number of people living in internal displacement due to violence tops 41m

“It takes extreme violence and fear of disasters to force a family out of their home, their land, their property, their community,” he stressed.

Including those uprooted from their homes by natural disasters as well as conflicts, a total of 28m people were displaced internally in 2018, the report said.

A full 10.8m of new internally displaced people (IDPs) last year were fleeing conflict, with strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria, as well as inter-communal tensions in Ethiopia, Cameroon and Nigeria responsible for most of the displacements, the study said.

The number of people currently living as IDPs is far higher than the 25m who have fled across borders as refugees.

Countries with the most IDPs

Surprisingly perhaps, the report found that the highest number of new internal displacements last year was in Ethiopia, with a full 2.9m people fleeing their homes inside the East African country, where communal clashes, typically sparked by land disputes, are common.

Strife-torn DRC came in second, with 1.8m fresh IDPs in 2018, followed by Syria with 1.6m new internal displacements.

But in total, Syria, ravaged by eight years of war, counts 6.1m IDPs, in addition to around the same number of Syrians still living as refugees.

On top of those forced from their homes by violence, 17.2m people were internally displaced by natural disasters last year, the report found.

Tropical cyclones and monsoon floods forced nearly 10m to flee inside the Philippines, China and India.

IDMC chief Alexandra Bilak told reporters that most of those displacements were linked to government-orchestrated evacuations ahead of natural disasters.

“This of course saves lives, but demonstrates that there are still too many people in those countries who are exposed to extreme events,” she said.

Hundreds of thousands of people were also forced from their homes in California last year by the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.

Some 22,000 people remain displaced by those fires, Bilak said.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2019