GENEVA: Conflicts and violence in places like Syria and Ukraine have displaced a record 38 million people inside their own countries, equivalent to the total populations of New York, London and Beijing, a watchdog group said Wednesday.
Nearly one third of them — a full 11 million people — were displaced last year alone, with an average of 30,000 people fleeing their homes every day, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) said in a report.
“These are the worst figures for forced displacement in a generation, signalling our complete failure to protect innocent civilians,” said Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council which is behind the IDMC.
Internally displaced people (IDPs) is a label given to people who remain in their homeland, as opposed to refugees, who flee across borders.
Today there are nearly twice as many IDPs in the world as refugees, the IDMC report said, without providing an exact figure for refugees.
According to UN statistics, some 16.7 million people were living as refugees worldwide at the end of 2013.
The numbers of people internally displaced last year meanwhile marked a 14-percent rise over the year before and dwarfed figures seen at the peak of the Darfur crisis in 2004, the spiralling violence in Iraq in the mid-2000s, or in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, the IDMC said.
“This report should be a tremendous wake-up call,” Egeland said.
“We must break this trend where millions of men, women and children are becoming trapped in conflict zones around the world,” he added.
Iraq hardest hit
A full 60 percent of newly displaced people last year were in just five countries: Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
Iraq was the hardest hit, with 2.2 million people forced to flee inside the country from areas seized by the brutal Islamic State group.
The IS jihadists also added to the horrors forcing people to leave their homes in civil war-ravaged Syria.
Around one million more people were internally displaced in Syria last year, bringing the total number of IDPs there to 7.6 million, or 40 percent of the population.
Ukraine meanwhile appeared in IDMC’s report for the first time, with 646,500 people internally displaced there in 2014 as the country was engulfed by fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev forces.