World Refugee Day: UN says 'every action counts' as record numbers displaced globally
Nearly 80 million people have been displaced worldwide – half of them children – by the end of 2019.
This is a record high and almost twice as many as a decade ago.
“I think we are witnessing today record levels of forced displacement, where almost close to 80 million people are displaced worldwide. This breaks down as one per cent of humanity,” UNHCR director for East Africa Clementine Nkweta-Salami told Reuters.
“One person in every 97 persons is forcibly displaced. On the (African) continent, we also see rising numbers. We started the decade with about 2.2 million and that has almost tripled,” she went on to say.
“On World Refugee Day, I think the message we have this year, notably that together we can make a difference and that every action counts,” Nkweta-Salami said.
“I think is one that should resonate in the hearts of most people globally, I would say more than it would have done in a year in which we were not all confronting the same situation.”
Refugee camps across the world are overcrowded and, with the danger of a coronavirus outbreak, people are constantly on edge.
Habiba Muhamad, from Somalia, lives at the camp. “We’ve been receiving food during the coronavirus,” she said. “We were given masks, soaps.”
Mumina Yussuf, another refugee from Somalia, said health workers there had been diligent.
“Hand sanitisers have been provided to keep our hands clean. They have put containers with running water outside,” she said.
Record numbers displaced
The UN refugee agency says the number of asylum-seekers, internally displaced people and refugees worldwide shot up by nearly nine million people last year - the biggest rise in its records.
In its annual "Global Trends" report released on Thursday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that the 79.5 million people account for 1% of all humanity amid conflict, repression and upheaval.
UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said of the 79.5 million people forcibly displaced, 68% come from only five countries: Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan and Venezuela.
The surge was chalked up in part to a new way of counting people displaced from Venezuela and "worrying" new displacement in the persistent trouble spots of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria.
War-torn Syria alone accounted for more than 13 million of those people on the move.
While the total figure of people facing forced displacement rose from 70.8 million at the end of 2018, some 11 million people were "newly displaced" last year, with poorer countries among those most affected.
Grandi said the global pandemic had had a major impact on refugees and the displaced, as 164 countries either partially or totally closed their borders to fight the new coronavirus.