The number of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, in the world swelled to an alarming 27.1 million by the end of 2009, one million more than at the close of 2008. This is the largest number of internally displaced people since the mid-1990s, said the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, or IDMC, in a report released today.
Last year, 6.8 million people were newly displaced from their homes as a result of sustained conflict and violence around the globe—a significant hike from the number of people displaced in 2008 (4.6 million) and 2007 (3.7 million). Over 5 million people also returned to their homes in the last year, with the difference between the two numbers accounting for the increase in the overall IDP population.
“The massive population movements and shocking violence are a sad reminder of the price that civilians pay in armed conflict,” said Elisabeth Rasmusson, the Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General. “Millions of people were newly displaced by conflicts in which combatants did not meet their obligations to protect civilians.”
Sudan, Somalia, and the Congo were among the most afflicted countries in 2009, both in terms of total number of IDPs and rates of displacement. Sudan continued to have the largest IDP population in the world at the end of 2009, with about 4.9 million displaced. In the last year, 530,000 people in Sudan were freshly displaced—the majority fleeing inter-communal fighting and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army in the South, and the rest as a result of clashes between rebels and government soldiers in Darfur.
Seventeen percent of Somalia’s population—or 1.5 million people — is internally displaced because of unabated fighting in south and central Somalia between the transitional government and insurgents. Living conditions for IDPs in Somalia were substandard in terms of security for women and children, and basic services, according to IDMC. The center reported similarly atrocious conditions in the Congo, where in just a year, one million people were displaced (the second highest rate of displacement in the world last year) because of violence committed by armed groups and the Congolese government:
“The killing and rape of IDPs and other civilians continued at a horrifying rate in eastern DRC in 2009, and the protection of IDPs and other civilians in eastern DRC has remained of great concern. (…) Both government forces and rebel groups have attacked civilians, to defeat historic enemies and also to secure territory in order to benefit from the extraction of natural resources.”
Photo: Children play outside of an IDP camp in southern Somalia (IRIN)