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The thousands of people fleeing their homes globally in search of safety have received more policy and media attention recently. There is a critical distinction between refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the humanitarian not to mention economic and political consequences of each.

  • Refugees. This is the population fleeing their home countries where violence is raging to other countries in search of protection and assistance. Globally we have witnessed accelerated growth in the flow of refugees in recent years. During 2014, the refugee flow grew by almost a quarter reaching 14.4 million persons. Unfortunately, this group only represents the tip of the iceberg.
  • Internally displaced persons. The vast majority of people cannot leave their countries and struggle to survive without assistance in subhuman conditions as what is termed 'internally displaced persons'. These people typically fall through the cracks compared to refugees because they are out of reach of the media spotlight and humanitarian agencies. Today there are twice as many IDPs as refugees worldwide, which represents 27.8 million people in 127 countries, or roughly the total population of Mozambique.

Conflict and violence are not the only reasons why people are uprooted. Natural and man-made disasters actually represent a more serious threat. During 2015, disasters displaced nearly 19.2 million people across 113 countries, while conflict and violence accounted for 8.5 million in 28 countries, less than a half the number who fled disasters.

  • Every region of the world was affected by disasters in 2015. Asia dominated in terms of absolute figures with the highest numbers being recorded in India, China and Nepal. Nepal was hit the hardest when in April 2015 the Gorkha earthquake killed 8,000 people and displaced as many as 2.6 million.
  • Like disasters, however, no region of the world remained unaffected in terms of conflict-related displacements last year. The increase in IDPs associated with conflict and violence during 2015 was driven primarily by continuing violence across the Middle East. Yemen was most affected: violence displaced 8 percent of the country's population, or 2.2 million persons. This almost seven-fold upsurge from the previous year was largely attributed to the Saudi-led military intervention. 

Internal displacement is becoming a heavier development and political challenge and thus also a more devisive issue in terms of local and international policy responses. The difficult reality of the sustained growth in IDPs is complicated by the fact that internal displacement is often protracted as many people remain displaced within their countries for years or even decades. In addition, the triggers of displacement are often not isolated - only disasters or only violence - but interrelated. In Sudan, for example, where displacement was traditionally attributed to conflict, displacement has now been more accurately traced back to food crises caused by drought and environmental degradation. 


Explore information related to ongoing armed conflicts and view the variety of conflict and terrorism datasets available through other Viz of the Days from Knoema.

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