By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS | 26 October 2023 (IDN) — The staggering number of military conflicts worldwide—including the most recent in Gaza—continues to rise, resulting in civilian deaths, devastation of cities and villages, along with millions of refugees and widespread famines and food shortages
In a report released on 25 October, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said the number of people displaced by war, persecution, violence and human rights violations globally is likely to have exceeded 114 million at the end of September.
The main drivers of forced displacement in the first half of 2023 were: war in Ukraine and conflicts in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar; a combination of drought, floods and insecurity in Somalia; and a prolonged humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, according to UNHCR’s Mid-Year Trends Report, which analyses forced displacement during the first six months of this year.
“The world’s focus now is—on the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. But globally, far too many conflicts are proliferating or escalating, shattering innocent lives and uprooting people,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
“The international community’s inability to solve conflicts or prevent new ones is driving displacement and misery. We must look within, work together to end conflicts and allow refugees and other displaced people to return home or restart their lives.”
Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) says for the 50,000 pregnant women caught up in the conflict in Gaza, “life is fraught with fear, as attacks continue and health services collapse”.
In its statement, the UNHCR says by the end of June, 110 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide, up 1.6 million from the end of 2022.
Over half of all people who are forced to flee never cross an international border. In the three months from June to the end of September, UNHCR estimates that the number of forcibly displaced grew by 4 million, bringing the total to 114 million.
The conflict in the Middle East erupted on 7 October, beyond the period covered by this report, which therefore does not take into account its consequences in terms of human displacement.
“As we watch events unfold in Gaza, Sudan and beyond, the prospect of peace and solutions for refugees and other displaced populations might feel distant,” Grandi added. “But we cannot give up. With our partners we will keep pushing for—and finding—solutions for refugees.
”Low- and middle-income countries hosted 75 per cent of refugees and other people in need of international protection. Globally, 1.6 million new individual asylum applications were made in the first six months, the largest number ever recorded.
Just over 404,000 refugee returns were recorded, more than double the same period in 2022, though many were not in safe conditions. Almost 2.7 million internally displaced people returned home during the same period, more than double the returns during the first half of 2022. The number of refugees resettled increased.
The report was released in the run-up to the second Global Refugee Forum (GRF), the world’s largest gathering on refugees and other forcibly displaced people, in Geneva from 13 to 15 December.
Governments, refugees, local authorities, international organizations, civil society and the private sector will gather to strengthen the global response and search for solutions to record levels of displacement.
Meanwhile, on World Refugee Day (20 June), Secretary-General António Guterres said during his decade as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, he witnessed the resilience and contributions of refugees across all walks of life. “Their perseverance in the face of adversity inspired me every day”, he said.
Refugees represent the very best of the human spirit. They need and deserve support and solidarity—not closed borders and pushbacks.
“As we mark World Refugee Day, we confront a startling statistic. More than 100 million people living in countries rocked by conflict, persecution, hunger and climate chaos have been forced to flee their homes”.
These are not numbers on a page, he said. These are individual women, children and men making difficult journey—often facing violence, exploitation, discrimination and abuse.
“This Day reminds us of our duty to protect and support refugee —and our obligation to open more avenues of support. This includes solutions to resettle refugees and to help them rebuild their lives in dignity”.
“We need greater international support for host countries, as called for by the Global Compact for Refugees, to boost access to quality education, decent work, health care, housing and social protection. And we need much stronger political will to make peace so refugees can return safely to their homes,” he pointed out.
This year’s theme is “Hope Away from Home”.
“I call on the world to harness the hope that refugees carry in their hearts. Let’s match their courage with the opportunities they need, every step of the way”, declared Guterres. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: A woman weeps in the garden of the Al-Ahli Hospital after it was hit on17 October, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people who were receiving medical care or sheltering for safety. Credit: Mustafa Hassona | Anadolu | UNFPA
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