THE number of globally displaced persons shared by the UN’s refugee agency in a report released on Friday is sobering and reflects the toll man-made disasters take on humanity. The UNHCR says over 82m people are displaced across the world. This number includes internally displaced persons and according to the report, the total reflects the fact that one per cent of humanity is uprooted. Conflict and persecution are the primary factors driving people to flee their homes, with global hotpots such as Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen topping the list of countries where instability is causing displacement. Even the Covid-19 pandemic failed to slow down the number of people fleeing instability, with the UNHCR head observing that “everything else has stopped, including the economies, but wars ... and violence ... and persecution ... have continued”. Turkey happens to host the highest number of refugees (3.7m) while Pakistan and Uganda tie for third place (1.4m refugees each) where providing shelter to the displaced is concerned. Moreover, it is a matter of great concern that 42pc of the globally displaced are under 18. In the vast majority of cases, these minors will be robbed of their childhood and deprived of basic rights such as health and education.

Of course, the main solution to stemming this massive tide of human displacement is to resolve the conflicts that are causing people to leave their homes. However, this is easier said than done and in many of these cases, such as Afghanistan, the conflicts go back decades. In fact, a UNHCR official recently told the media in Quetta that fresh instability in Afghanistan may fuel a new influx of refugees into Pakistan. Along with making sincere efforts to resolve the conflicts that cause displacement in the first place, the international community must do more to provide succour to refugees, as more often than not countries with resource constraints, such as Pakistan, are left in the lurch to care for millions of displaced persons.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2021

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