Conflict, disasters worsen global IDPs crisis to record level

Thursday May 18 2023
drc war

War-displaced people flee towards the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on November 15, 2022. PHOTO | ALEXIS HUGUET | AFP


Conflict and natural disasters in 2022 pushed the numbers of internally displaced persons in sub-Saharan Africa to a high of 31.7 million – or 45 percent of global figures – with the Democratic Republic of Congo crossing the five million mark.

According to a report titled “Internal displacements by conflict and disasters in 2022” by the Internal Monitoring Displacement Centre (IMDC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council, there were 5,686,000 internally displaced persons in the DRC, 3,852,000 in Ethiopia Somalia (3,864,000) and Sudan (3,553,000).

The report lists Ukraine leading the world with 16,870,000 due to the war against Russia.

Ethiopia and Somalia led the region in the number of internally displaced persons in 2022 due to conflict as the global figures hit 71.1 million.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a total of 31.7 million were displaced. This amounted to 45 percent share of the total internally displaced in the world, with 28 million due to conflicts and 3.7 million due to natural disasters such as floods and drought.

The report, released May 11 lists five countries that were adversely affected including Sudan and Nigeria, joining the top five to suffer highest displacements.


“The displacement crises are growing in scale, complexity and scope, and factors like food insecurity, climate change and escalating and protracted conflicts are adding new layers to this phenomenon. Greater resources and further research are essential to help understand and better respond to IDPs’ needs,” said IMDC Director Alexandra Bilak.

Read: Sudan war: Pain of broken chains of command

Livelihoods in the Horn of Africa have long evolved around livestock’s grazing needs, but as seasonal variability turns into climate shocks, traditional coping mechanisms have been exhausted, forcing farmers to move and some pastoralists to become sedentary.

The region faced its longest and most severe drought on record in 2022 after five consecutive below-average rainy seasons, triggering 2.1 million displacements across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Somalia alone accounted for 1.1 million, the highest in 2017.

Ethiopia recorded 686,000 drought displacements. The situation was particularly acute in the regions of Somalia and Oromia, which were also affected by conflict and violence. In Kenya, Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit and Turkana counties yielded 316,000 movements while drought affected 4.5 million people across the country.

The secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, compares the overlapping crises around the world to a “perfect storm”.

Lasting impact

“Conflict and disasters combined last year to aggravate people’s pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, triggering displacement on a scale never seen before. The war in Ukraine also fuelled a global food security crisis that hit the internally displaced hardest. This perfect storm has undermined years of progress made in reducing global hunger and malnutrition,” said Mr Egeland.

Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s largest producers of fertiliser and grain. The conflict between the neighbours has had cascading effects on global supply chains and food prices, heightening food insecurity in many countries where internal displacement is also an issue.

Read: Russia threatens to scrap Ukraine grain deal

In the Philippines, Madagascar and South Sudan, consecutive disasters forced people to flee repeatedly, undermining their recovery and prolonging their displacement.

The IDPs keep increasing because of escalating conflict and violence in countries such as Ukraine and the DRC and significant disasters such as flooding in Pakistan forced millions of people to flee in 2022.

Last year, conflict, disasters, and the continued effects of the Covid-19 pandemic combined to aggravate people’s pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities.

Bilak says that better data and analysis are still needed to improve understanding of the relationship between food security and displacement, but IMDC’s report shows that food insecurity is often a consequence of displacement and can have lasting impacts on both IDPs and host communities.

Most countries that face crisis levels of food insecurity are also home to IDPs.