Conflict and violence triggered around 4.8 million displaced people and natural disasters accounted for 9.8 million, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
Millions of people were forced from their homes due to conflict, violence and natural disasters in the first half of 2020, research has found.
Around 14.6 million new internal displacements were recorded across 127 countries and territories between January and June 2020, according to the Swiss-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in a new report published on Wednesday.
Internal displacement is one of today’s major humanitarian and development challenges. An estimated 50.8 million individuals were living as internally displaced people (IDPs) by the end of 2019.
IDMC claims that conflict and violence triggered 4.8 million displacements, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, a million more than the first half of 2019.
The greatest increases were in Syria, where nearly 1.5 million were recorded, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 1.4 million and another 419,000 in Burkina Faso, where fighting among criminal gangs, jihadists and local militias has plunged the nation into crisis.
Cameroon, Mozambique, Niger and Somalia reported more new displacements in the first half of 2020 than in the whole of 2019.
“The staggering figures recorded in the first six months of the year are testament to the persistent volatility of displacement crises worldwide,” said IDMC’s director, Alexandra Bilak.
“Compounding this is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced access to health care and increased economic hardship and protection risks for displaced communities.”
Sudden and slow-onset disasters continue to trigger the majority of new displacements worldwide, with 9.8 million. Cyclone Amphan was the largest single displacement event in 2020 so far, prompting 3.3 million pre-emptive evacuations in India and Bangladesh.
A number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa were hit by major floods and locust infestations that aggravated food insecurity in Somalia and eastern Africa. In Australia, intense bushfires led to unprecedented displacement of tens of thousands of people.
A range of factors have converged to aggravate the situation for IDPs. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, already one of the world’s worst, deepened in the first half of 2020 as a result of the ongoing conflict, high Covid-19 infection rates and some of the worst flooding in years.
The report claims that many people living in areas exposed to disasters expressed reluctance to leave their homes for fear of contracting Covid-19 in evacuation centres.
Covid-19 has further heightened IDP’s vulnerabilities, as many have lost their livelihoods and those living in rented accommodation are exposed to a heightened risk of eviction.
The report mentions that the pandemic has posed further challenges in responding to new displacement events and exacerbated gender-based violence. Lockdown restrictions and shifting priorities among government and humanitarian agencies have also hindered the collection of data on IDPs.
The IDMC warns that most displacement that could occur in 2020 is still to be accounted for.
Most major flooding has taken place in Bangladesh, China and several countries in Africa’s Sahel region since 30 June, and monsoon rains have wrought havoc in South Asia. Typhoon season in East Asia and the Pacific is ongoing, and the Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be active.
“It is extremely worrying to report numbers this high so early in the year, particularly as we know that the majority of weather-related hazards in 2020 are still to come,” said Bilak.
“Our report confirms once more that the international community must support governments in reversing these trends and finding long-term solutions to displacement.”