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Millions Displaced by Violence, Disasters

The Democratic Republic of Congo had the largest number of newly internally displaced people last year.
Millions Displaced by Violence, Disasters
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More than 30 million people were displaced within their own countries last year.

That number comes from a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The two groups blame criminal violence and natural disasters for driving millions of people from their homes.

The report also found that nearly 7 million people were newly displaced in 2016.

Jan Egeland is the Director-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“When a family is pushed out of their home, sometimes for years, it is a sign something is wrong in a nation, the locality, but also in international relations,” Egeland said.

The country with the most newly internally displaced persons in 2016 was the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC. More than 922,000 people were driven from their homes because of conflict.

The report found that the DRC had more newly displaced people than Syria and Iraq. Syria was second with 824,000 while Iraq was third with 659,000 displaced persons.

Egeland said three provinces in the DRC -- North and South Kivu and Kasai -- are where most of the displacements took place.

Rohingya internally displaced persons wait for aid after a cyclone in a camp in Myanmar.
Rohingya internally displaced persons wait for aid after a cyclone in a camp in Myanmar.

Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen all had nearly half a million or more internally displaced persons.

Internal displacement is a more common problem than refugees driven from their country, Egeland said.

“Internally displaced people now outnumber refugees by two to one,” he said.

Alexandra Bilak is the director of the International Displacement Monitoring Center. She says displacement can be only the start for some people.

“We need to acknowledge that without the right kind of support and protection, a person internally displace today may become a refugee, an asylum seeker or an international migrant tomorrow,” she said.

One major cause for displacement is criminal violence, the report said. That is the case in some places in Central America. In El Salvador, for example, drug-related violence caused 200,000 people to leave their homes in 2016.

The other major cause is natural disasters, such as floods, storms, drought, and wildfires. In 2016, three times more people were displaced by such disasters than in 2015.

Researchers worry that the number of people displaced by weather events will continue to rise because of extreme weather linked to climate change.

The International Displacement Monitoring Center has called for more information about the internally displaced and more money to deal with the problem. The United Nations has called for cutting the number of the internally displaced in half by 2030.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Margaret Besheer reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

Displaced –adj. having been forced to leave one’s home

Drought –n. a severe lack of rain for a long period of time

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