Key Displacement Facts and Statistics
The “Statistics & Key Messages” are a compilation of facts, statistics, key messages and case studies on reproductive health in displaced and conflict-affected settings in order to provide the media, actors in the humanitarian sector, practitioners from intersecting fields and other interested parties with easily understood, factual information. This page provides an overview of key facts and statistics relevant to issues throughout the topic of displacement.
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Millions of men, women and children have been uprooted and displaced from their homes and communities due to armed conflict, violence, human right violations and disasters.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that at the end of 2010, there were 43.7 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the largest number since the mid-1990s. This includes 837,000 asylum-seekers and 27.5 million internally displaced persons.1 The majority of those displaced are not refugees or stateless persons but have been internally displaced.* Internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of conflict or violence grew from 17 million in 1997 to 27 million in 2009, with the UNHCR only assisting or providing protection for slightly half of the IDP population.2 Refugees constituted 15.2 million persons, with 10.4 million falling under the protection mandate of UNHCR, and 4.8 million Palestinian refugees protected by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA).3Some 197,000 refugees repatriated voluntarily during 2010, the lowest figure in more than 20 years. In contrast, more than 2.9 million IDPs were able to return, the highest number in almost 15 years.4
Source: 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Some 7.2 million refugees were in a prolonged situation at the end of 2010, the highest figure since 2001. They were living in 24 different countries. The protracted conflicts and tense political situations have contributed to 2009 witnessing the smallest number of returned refugees in the last two decades.5 Additionally, displaced populations are starting to shift away from camp settings to urban environments. Over half of the refugee populations were in urban areas and less then one third in camps in 2009. However, this estimation varies regionally with six out of ten refugees in sub-Saharan Africa residing in a camp setting.6
Worldwide, IDPs live in camp and non-camp settings. IDPs in camp settings are easily identified but represent the smallest population of IDPs globally. The majority of IDPs are dispersed among host communities, family and friends.7 Worldwide, 54 countries have recorded IDP populations as a result of conflict or violence and in at least 48 of those countries, IDPs live in urban environments.8 IDPs dispersed in a population receive less support and attention due to the challenges in correctly identifying their position as an IDP, voluntary migration or as having achieved resettlement.9, 10 Additionally, the occurrence of natural disasters affects internal displacement through both immediate and slow onset disasters. OCHA has stated that an estimated 20-25 million persons have been internally displaced due to natural disasters.11 Natural disasters are a rising trend that has grown substantially in number from 1994 to 2008.12
Definitions of Persons of Concern13
- In 2010, women and girls constituted 47% of refugees, and half of all IDPs and former refugees.14
- Women on average represent 49 percent of UNHCR identified persons of concern, or an estimated population of 10,682,000.15
- A recent UNHCR report noted that the phenomenon of women and adolescent girls engaging in transactional sex within IDP camps in Port-au-Prince is widespread and exemplifies the exacerbation of their precarious and vulnerable conditions.16
- The lowest proportion of refugee women among the total population can be found in Europe and the highest in Central Africa.17
- Half or more persons designated as displaced persons in Africa are female, whereas males are the majority of persons of concern in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.18
- In urban settings, women make up 48 percent of the refugee population; among refugee camps, they are 50 percent of the population and in rural areas, they constitute 46 percent of the refugee population.19
- According to UNHCR, women in various IDP camps in the Port-au-Prince area assessed their daily needs at a meager 10-25 Haitian gourds (US $0.25- US $ 0.60) a day.20
- There are few global estimates of the number of children and women displaced; each country has a different number. A 2004 survey done in Liberia’s 20 official displacement camps showed that 63 percent of the population were women.21
- In a recent UNHCR report, in various IDP camps in the Port-au-Prince area, there are tents and areas designated for prostitution activities where ‘services’ are given in exchange for food.22
Source: UNHCR, 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and
Stateless Persons, 2009.
- Children are at particular risk in displaced populations where they can be excluded from educational institutions; suffer from psychological trauma; be separated from their families; as well as be at an increased risk for recruitment into armed forces.23
- Children and adolescents constitute 57 and 55 per cent respectively, of UNHCR’s people of concern (refugees, returnees, the stateless and IDPs).24
- In 2010, 44% of refugees and 31% of asylum-seekers were children below 18 years of age.25
- According to UNHCR data, more than 72,000 unaccompanied or separated children lodged asylum claims over the last five years.26
- The year 2009 holds the record for the highest numbers of asylum applications filed by unaccompanied and separated children in the last four years. The majority of these claims were a result of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia.27
- Children, on average, make up 52 percent of the population in refugee camps and 43 percent of the population of refugees in urban settings.28
- It has been reported that children under 5 make up 20 percent of refugee populations during emergencies; however, a study published by Weiss, et. al in 2011 has found that the proportion of under-5 children changes post-emergency to 16 percent of refugee populations (17 percent in Africa, 12 percent in Asia).29
Children (under the age of 18) of concern to UNHCR, end 2005
Sources: UNHCR/Field Information and Coordination Support Section
The boundaries and names shown and the designation used in this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations
- The average length of displacement for refugees is estimated to be 17 years and 20 years for the internally displaced.30, 31 The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) has stated that in 21 countries, children have been born and have grown into adulthood in displacement.32
- Of the 27.5 million IDPs that have been displaced due to conflict, 11.1 million are in Africa, 5.4 million in the Americas, 4.6 million in South and South-East Asia, 3.9 million in the Middle East, and 2.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.33
- By the end of 2008, Asia hosted over half of the global refugee population (54 percent), followed by Africa (22 percent), Europe (15 percent), North America (4 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (3 percent), and Oceania (0.3 percent).34
- In Africa (excluding North Africa), the number of refugees continued to decline for the eighth consecutive year. By the end of 2008, there were 2.1 million refugees compared to more than 3.4 million in 2000.35
- Pakistan was host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.9 million) in 2010, followed by the Islamic Republic of Iran (1.1 million) and the Syrian Arab Republic (1 million: government estimate). 36
- In 2010, more than 4.4 million refugees, representing 42% of the world’s refugees, resided in countries whose GDP (PPP) was below USD 3,000.37
- With an estimated three million internally displaced persons, Colombia had one of the largest IDP populations in the world in 2008.38
- Among IDPs, 90 percent are from eight countries: Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, Somalia, the Philippines, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.39
- Developing countries hosted 8.3 million refugees, or 80 percent of the global refugee population.
- The 49 least developed countries provided asylum to 1.9 million refugees.40
- Africa hosts 64 percent of all refugee camp populations. Half of the world camp populations (46%) are in the East and Horn of Africa41
- Among the refugees reported at the end of 2008, 42 percent were living in urban areas, 25 percent lived in camps, and 16 percent in rural areas dispersed among the local population.42
- Camps in the East and Horn of Africa are composed of IDPs (1.5 million) and refugees (560,000). Camps in other regions are comprised largely of refugee populations.43
- According to a UNHCR report, in Haiti in April 2011 there were 680,000 forcibly displaced people still living in insecure conditions in more than 1,000 IDP camps; there were 170,000 people living as ‘invisible IDPs’ in vulnerable host communities and families.44
- A recent UNHCR report determines that slightly less than half of all asylum claims were submitted by individuals originating from Asia (45%), followed by Africa (25%), Europe (19%) and the Americas (8%).45
- Asia is the second largest region to host camp populations, with 80 percent of them in south-west Asia.46
- According to the UNHCR, the number of asylum seekers in Australia and New Zealand increased by 31% during 2010.47
- In 2008, UNHCR served 10.5 million refugees with the majority of those refugees living in urban areas.
- 4.4 million refugees were situated in urban areas.
- 2.6 million refugees lived in camps.
- 1.7 million refugees were dispersed among local populations in rural areas. 48
Source: 2008 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
The numbers of natural disasters are on the rise and will affect large portions of the world’s population.49 However, the effect of natural disasters on global displacement are difficult to estimate. The difficulty occurs in how to distinguish between forced displacement by a natural disaster and general mobility as a coping mechanism for changing environmental trends that affect a person’s livelihoods, health and well-being. Individuals or families who migrate as a means to cope with changing environmental trends are not always viewed as those that are forcibly displaced as a result of a natural disaster.50 However, the effects of slow onset natural disasters such as land erosion, drought and crop failure are just as problematic for displacement as the more immediate natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes and landslides.
- In 2010, the Center for Research on Environmental Disasters reported 373 natural disasters around the world. As a result from those disasters, over 296,800 people were killed and 208 million others were affected. The cost of rehabilitation and care was estimated to be close to 110 billion dollars.51
- There were 42.3 million people displaced due to natural disasters in 2010.52
- In 2008, extreme weather events displaced 20 million persons compared to 4.6 million persons who where internally displaced due to conflict.53
- In natural disasters, women are more vulnerable to suffering injury or death compared to men due to several factors including; not limited independence and mobility outside of the home, lack of advance warning or inability to swim.54
- Slow-onset disasters, such as drought or deforestation increases women’s workloads and limit the possibility of education or additional income generating activities.55
- The 2004 tsunami that struck south-west Asia displaced one million people over 12 countries.56
- A 2010 article by R. Cohen and M. Bradley on protection gaps for the displaced stated that the 2004 Tsunami saw three times as many women die compared to men as well as a reported rise in sexual and gender based violence.57
- Institutional discrimination against women in India affected the distribution of relief packages to the 2004 tsunami-affected IDPs. Compensation and relief packages were handed out to only male headed households with no pensions, relief funds or compensation payments provided for women.58
- Conflict and violence that have displaced populations in Africa were attributed to not only political, social and economic reasons, but also over limited natural resources.59
- Natural disasters in 2009 displaced 12 million people in the Philippines.60
- 14 million persons in Pakistan have been affected by the 2010 flood crisis.61
- After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 1.5 million people were left homeless and the International Organization for Migration registered 720,000 displaced individuals in their camp settlement.62
- Yemen has felt the effects of population displacement from both slow onset and immediate natural disasters. The slow onset displacement occurred as a result of the 2007-2008 drought and the 2008 floods that instigated severe land erosion and destruction of agriculturally-based livelihoods. The more immediate natural disasters were extensive flooding and landslides in 2008 and 2010.63