World’s Refugee Crisis

Artwork: Julien Roudaut

Artwork: Julien Roudaut

The refugee crisis is a human crisis: Behind the statistics are people filled with unique life experiences and dreams for the future. They are mothers longing to return home, fathers yearning to work again, children searching for a childhood.

Today more than 68 million people around the world are displaced from their homes.

What does it look like for that many people to be displaced? It would be like over half the population of Japan going homeless. Or everyone in the U.K. fleeing and leaving an empty nation behind them. It would be like the states of California and Texas slowly draining of every doctor, teacher, engineer and entrepreneur until there was only barren land left behind.

More than a third of the world’s displaced population — some 25.4 million people — have been forced to flee their own countries entirely, leaving familiar lands behind. Over two-thirds of those refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

All refugees have suffered unimaginable loss, whether they are displaced in their own country or seeking safety overseas. Yet they are filled with potential and the strength to triumph over adversity. Their story is our story, because we are all human — and together, we can build a better world.

1. Syria: 6.3 million refugees

The Syria crisis has accelerated more dramatically than any crisis on earth, and Syrians continue to be the largest forcibly displaced population in the world. After war erupted in March 2011, it took two years for 1 million people to be displaced. Another million were displaced within six months. Now seven years on, more than half of the pre-war population has been internally displaced or forced to seek safety in neighboring countries. That’s more than 11 million people on the run, including some 6.3 million people who have escaped across the borders.

2. Afghanistan: 2.6 million refugees

Shakila, center, fled Afghanistan with her kids, Sonia and Arash. Cash from Mercy Corps is helping them meet their urgent needs while living in Greece. PHOTO: Sara Hylton for Mercy Corps

Years of unemployment, insecurity and political instability have led to a massive migration from Afghanistan. Over one million people are estimated to be living in new and prolonged displacement, while nearly 2.6 million people have been forced to leave the country to Iran, Pakistan or Europe.

The United Nations estimates that an average 1,100 people a day — mostly women and children — were forcibly displaced by violence in 2017. Today, over half of people displaced by conflict in Afghanistan have been displaced at least twice, compared to just 7 percent five years ago.


3. South Sudan: 2.4 million refugees

The situation in South Sudan is dire, and the largest refugee crisis in Africa. More than 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes since the start of a brutal civil war in 2013, including about 2.4 million people who have been forced to cross into neighboring countries, the majority of them women and children.

Ongoing warfare, flooding and drought continue to worsen what is already a dangerous humanitarian crisis. There are massive needs for clean water, health care, sanitation, food, shelter, and protection across the country, and millions of people now require urgent support to survive.


4. Myanmar: 1.2 million refugees

Since violence broke out in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State in August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh. Before the crisis began, Bangladesh was already grappling with its own humanitarian challenges, and hosting some 212,000 Rohingya who had escaped Myanmar during earlier periods of violence and persecution.

The speed and scale of the influx over the course of a three-month period last fall has placed tremendous strain on host communities and Bangladesh as a whole, making it one of the world’s largest and worst refugee crises.

Today, there are some 932,000 Rohingya seeking refuge in Bangladesh and at least 1.3 million people — Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host communities — who rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. More than half of them are children. These populations live in desperately overcrowded camps and communities, highly vulnerable to oncoming monsoon and cyclone seasons.


5. Somalia: 986,400 refugees

More than two decades of ongoing conflict and natural hazards such as prolonged drought and flooding have driven nearly 1 million Somalis to live in destitute refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, while some 2.1 million people remain displaced within the country.

Almost half of the country is in need of assistance, and some 2.5 million people are unable to meet daily food needs, including over 300,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Artwork: Julien Roudaut
Sources: The New York Times - Mercy Corps

Human RightsNiccolo Gorfer