Wars and conflicts displace millions worldwide

More children and families are being forced from their homes yet remain in their country, according to a new UN report.

By Kathryn Reid, World Vision U.S.
Published June 13, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

The number of people fleeing conflict and disaster will continue to rise over the next decade, a report from the United Nations' refugee agency says.

More people displaced in their own countries

"The State of the World's Refugees 2012" notes a disturbing trend: a steep rise in the number of people displaced within their own countries.

At the end of 2011, 26.4 million people were displaced by conflict and violence, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre; 3.5 million were newly displaced during the year. 

In contrast, refugees and asylum seekers numbered 16 million to 17 million.

The difference between IDPs and refugees

Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Iraq, and Sudan have the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) caused by conflict.

The UN report noted while Africa has more IDPs than any other region, the total number there has continued on a downward trend since 2004.

The status of IDPs is fundamentally different from refugees, the UN report emphasizes, because they remain within the borders of their country and the main responsibility for helping them falls on their national government.

In many cases governments of developing countries lack the capacity or the will to aid marginalized groups. Sometimes governments themselves are responsible for the displacement.

Countries with the most IDPs

Though circumstances vary from country to country, displacement happens around the globe.

Top spots include:

Colombia -- 3.9 million to 5.3 million IDPs. More than 10 percent of the population is displaced, most due to armed groups involved in the drug trade.

Iraq -- More than 2 million IDPs. This number has declined since 2008, but after years of conflict a large population still lacks permanent settlement.

Democratic Republic of the Congo -- 1.7 million displaced mainly due to a protracted civil war. 

Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic -- An estimated 440,000 (including refugees) who fled the militant Lord's Resistance Army.

Middle East and North Africa -- 830,000 were displaced during the 2011 Arab Spring revolts.

Afghanistan -- At least 450,000 IDPs. As fighting spread to new areas in 2011, new displacements were 80 percent higher than the year before.

World Vision has a history of serving people who have been forced to flee their homes due to disasters, conflict, or violence. We currently work with refugee and IDP populations in Somalia, Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. 

How you can help

Pray for children and families affected by conflict and war. Pray for their protection and for and end to conflict.

Donate monthly to our Children in Conflict Fund. Your monthly gift will help provide critical care for children and communities terrorized by war and conflict. Your support will provide critical services such as trauma counseling, clean water, nutritious food, and health care, peacebuilding activities, and more.