Manu Brabo/File/AP

Report: Over 33.3 million people internally displaced in 2013

Figure is a 16 percent increase from previous year; Syria accounts for nearly half of new displacements

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At least 33.3 million people across the world were internally displaced in 2013, with Syria recording the highest amount — one family displaced every 60 seconds — according to a U.N.-backed report released Wednesday.

The global figure is the highest ever recorded and represents a 16 percent increase in internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the previous year, said the report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC).

“This record number of people forced to flee inside their own countries confirms a disturbing upward trend of internal displacement since the IDMC first began monitoring and analyzing displacement back in the late 90s,” Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which oversees the IDMC, said in a press release.

Five conflict-ridden countries — Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan — represent the majority of IDPs worldwide.

Syria accounted for almost half of the new displacements globally in 2013, surpassing Colombia as the country with the highest number of IDPs, at 6.5 million. About 9,500 people are displaced every day in Syria, the report said. It remains the “largest and fastest evolving” IDP crisis in the world.

“The IDMC report reveals a frightening reality of life inside Syria, now the largest internal displacement crisis in the world,” Egeland said. “Not only do armed groups control the areas where internal displacement camps are located, these camps are badly managed, provide inadequate shelter, sanitation, and limited aid delivery.”

Natural hazards often force IDPs to again flee from places they have sought refuge or returned to, according to the report. Scarce resources, often the result of environmental degradation and climate change, can create tensions and even conflict.

In the Philippines, for example, those living in poorly equipped camps and makeshift shelters in central Mindanao were more exposed to flooding than their counterparts in the general population,” the report said.

The study noted that many IDPs face protracted displacement even after the conflict that forced them to flee is over. In Bangladesh and Cyprus, IDPs have been displaced since the 1970s. In PalestineMyanmar and Colombia, the displacements date back further, to the 1960s.

The average amount of time people live in forced displacement is now 17 years, according to the IDMC study.

“The dramatic increase in forced displacement in 2013 and the fact that the average amount of time people worldwide are living in displacement is now a staggering 17 years, all suggest that something is going terribly wrong in how we are responding and dealing with this issue,” Egeland said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres added: “We should all be concerned about these numbers and the continuing upward trend. We have a shared responsibility to act to end this massive suffering. Immediate protection and assistance for the internally displaced is a humanitarian imperative.” 

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