Lara Kajs | 2 February 2015 |
According to a report released by UNHCR, the Refugee Agency of the United Nations, the number of persons fleeing conflict is unprecedented and has led to a humanitarian crisis. The refugee crisis counts nearly sixty million people displaced around the world as a result of conflict, violence, and persecution.
Crisis in Syria
A leading contributor to displacement is the crisis in Syria. In 2011, the initial view of many in the region was that accepting refugees would be a temporary means to help those in danger. However, during the ongoing four-year conflict in Syria, more than twelve million people (approximately half the country’s population) have been displaced. Within the country’s borders, another 7.7 million people have been internally displaced and nearly four million have sought refuge in the neighboring countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. In Lebanon, statistics indicate that one in four people is a Syrian refugee.
The historic number of displaced persons has not only depleted funds allotted for food and basic necessities but has also led to host countries changing their policies to allow refugees to work to support themselves and their families. Since most refugees end up in less developed countries, the increase in population creates an overwhelming burden on the economies, and without outside humanitarian support, puts countries at risk for economic collapse.
Almost 30 million of the world’s refugee population is children. This means that an entire generation of stateless children are lost, with insufficient food and shelter, and without access to educational resources. What many hoped would be a situation rectified within a few months has now turned into a very long-term crisis with no end in sight. The implications of the crisis in Syria reach beyond Syria’s borders and impact the economies, security, education, and health of its neighbors.
Displacement in Africa
In sharp contrast, the many millions displaced in Africa, stay within the confines of the continent. Conflicts in the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Somalia, have produced at least 15.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Many displaced persons flee to neighboring countries that are poorer than their own countries.
According to UNHCR data, there are nearly seven million persons in need of humanitarian aid in Sudan, a large portion of whom are internally displaced. In the Central African Republic, more than 500,000 people are internally displaced and as many as 200,000 have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Cameroon – countries battling their own internal conflicts.
In fact, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 2.6 million people are internally displaced and 500,000 have fled to other neighboring countries. The violence inflicted on the civilian population in DR Congo has been horrific and includes mass rape and torture perpetrated by state military and non-government armed opposition.
Since its origination, South Sudan has had its share of conflict. However, since the outbreak of civil war in 2013, 1.4 million people have become internally displaced. Food insecurity and malnutrition are real concerns as humanitarian assistance has become sparse due to the civil conflict.
Displacement in Myanmar
Humanitarian relief has been greatly diminished in Myanmar largely due to politically motivated government control. For example, many humanitarian aid agencies have been forced to refrain from using the name Rohingya when referring to the portion of the persecuted population that has been denied citizenship, forced to live in deplorable conditions, and many of whom have been expelled from the country and set to sea.
Although exact numbers are difficult to attain since the Rohingya have not been counted in a census for a number of years – it is believed that there are nearly 1.5 million persons in Myanmar who are internally displaced or in camps in the Rakhine, Kachin, and the northern Shan States. Over 800,000 are considered stateless.
We Can Do More
Although the United States and France host refugees from many different nations, their assistance in the Syrian refugee crisis has been exceedingly low. In reality, it is often the poorest countries that host the majority of refugees. To be exact, developing countries host more than eighty-six percent of the world’s refugees.
As the United Nations and other humanitarian relief groups struggle to continue to support the world’s refugees, the need for more countries, especially European and Western countries to resettle more of the people at risk is greater than ever. Outside of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt – Germany has made a greater commitment to helping in the Syrian refugee crisis than any other country.
In 2014, twelve million people were internally displaced in Syria. That’s 30,000 people per day uprooted from their homes and forced to flee to safety. This is not just a Syria crisis. It is not just an African crisis The refugee crisis is a global crisis, and it is a crisis that we all need to help to resolve.
Photo Credit: Syrian refugees line up during class break – World Bank Photo Collection – Licensed under CC 2.0 license