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Internal displacement in Africa has reached unprecedented levels

Alwihda Info | Par IDMC - 8 Décembre 2019

Internal displacement in Africa has reached unprecedented levels. Illustration. © DR
Internal displacement in Africa has reached unprecedented levels. Illustration. © DR
Geneva – Nearly 17 million people were living in a situation of displacement within their own countries in Africa by the end of 2018. This is the highest figure ever recorded for the continent, and around 40 per cent of the global total. As the African Union (AU) marks the tenth anniversary of the Kampala Convention, the world’s first legally binding regional treaty on internal displacement, a new report launched today  shows that the scale of displacement is likely to continue unabated.

Africa has consistently experienced more displacement associated with conflict and violence than any other region in the world over the past decade, and annual average figures have increased sharply. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) recorded more than 7.5 million new displacements  triggered by conflict and violence in 2018 alone.

Disasters, such as floods, storms and drought, triggered a further 2.6 million new displacements  during the year, and more than 21 million over the decade. Though the figures for disasters have remained steady (with the exception of 2012 which experienced significant floods),events in 2019 thus far  suggest that the scale of internal displacement in Africa is not likely to diminish.

“The African Union declared 2019 the year of refugees, returnees and internally displaced people to mark the tenth anniversary of the Kampala Convention. While there have been some promising developments throughout the year, such as Ethiopia, Niger and Somalia adopting laws and policies on internal displacement, the overall rise in displacement across Africa this past decade shows that measures to establish peace and improve security, reduce disaster risk, or adapt to the effects of climate change have not been sufficient,” said Alexandra Bilak, Director of IDMC.
Africa is home to some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, many of which are under-reported and under-funded. Conflict in Cameroon’s  anglophone regions in 2018 triggered 20 times more displacement than the Boko Haram insurgency.

Africa is undergoing rapid and unplanned urbanisation, which has exposed a greater number of people to displacement risk. Climate change is also making natural hazards more intense and less predictable. These factors combine to drive a high level of displacement risk in the region.

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth struck southern Africa in March and April 2019, causing widespread damage and displacing over 600,000 people. One of the reasons the powerful storms had such a devastating impact is because they hit poor and vulnerable areas already affected by Southern Africa’s extended drought. Cyclone Idai also barrelled over the coastal city of Beira in Mozambique, home to half a million people.  

“The Kampala Convention provides a solid basis for action and this anniversary offers an opportunity to catalyse change. Internal displacement presents a major obstacle for achieving peace, prosperity, growth and sustainable development. Greater political will to develop and implement policies and long-term social and economic investments will be essential. It’s time to turn words into action,” said Alexandra Bilak.

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