Millions of displaced people face dual hardship of COVID-19: Report

Wars, conflict and natural disasters displaced 14.6 million people in 127 countries from January-June 2020

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 23 September 2020
Displaced persons at a camp in Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons__

Around 14.6 million people were displaced globally in the first half of 2020 due to a host of factors. They now have the spectre of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hanging over them, a new report has said.

The displaced people were recorded across 127 countries and territories between January and June 2020, according to the report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) based in Geneva.

A range of factors had converged to aggravate the situation of internally displaced people worldwide, the report said.

Conflict and violence displaced 4.8 million people, primarily in Africa and West Asia, a million more than in the first half of 2019. The greatest increases were in Syria, where nearly 1.5 million were recorded, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 1.4 million and Burkina Faso with 419,000, the report noted.

The situation in Burkina Faso had deteriorated rapidly into the worst displacement crisis in West Africa, as armed groups had grown and expanded their reach.

Elsewhere in Africa, Cameroon, Mozambique, Niger and Somalia had reported more new displacements in the first half of 2020 than in the whole of 2019.

Extreme climatic conditions also caused displacements in addition to wars and conflict. Sudden and slow-onset disasters triggered 9.8 million new displacements in the first half of 2020.

Cyclone Amphan, that led to the pre-emptive evacuation of 3.3 million people in India and Bangladesh, was the largest event.

As many as 2.8 million homes were damaged or destroyed in West Bengal and another 100,000 people were thought to have been left homeless in Bangladesh due to Amphan.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which was already the world’s worst, deepened in the first half of 2020, the result of ongoing conflict, high COVID-19 infection rates and some of the worst flooding in years.

High numbers of displacements triggered by both conflict and disasters had also complicated the crises in DRC and Somalia.

Displaced people living in areas exposed to disasters from North America to South Asia were now reluctant to leave their homes for fear of contracting COVID-19 in evacuation centres, the report said.

“The staggering figures recorded in the first six months of the year are testament to the persistent volatility of displacement crises worldwide,” IDMC’s director, Alexandra Bilak, was quoted as saying in a press statement.

“Compounding this is the COVID-19 pandemic, that has reduced access to health care and increased economic hardship and protection risks for displaced communities,” she added.

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