20240514 Gaza
Tents housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Image Credit: AFP

Geneva: Conflict in Sudan and Gaza pushed the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide to a record 75.9 million at the end of 2023, an NGO monitor said Tuesday.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said the figure was a new end-of-year high by its count, with the number of people displaced within their own borders having increased by more than 50 percent in the last five years.

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The figure was up from 71.1 million at the end of 2022.

While refugees are those who have fled abroad, internal displacement refers to the forced movement of people within the country they live in.

In its annual Global Report on Internal Displacement, the IDMC said that 68.3 million people worldwide were displaced by conflict and violence, and 7.7 million by disasters.

Over the past five years, the number of IDPs resulting from conflict has increased by 22.6 million, with the two biggest increases in 2022 and 2023.

At 9.1 million, Sudan has the highest number of IDPs recorded for a single country since records began in 2008, the monitor said. Almost half of all IDPs live in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Over the past two years, we've seen alarming new levels of people having to flee their homes due to conflict and violence, even in regions where the trend had been improving," said IDMC director Alexandra Bilak.

"Conflict, and the devastation it leaves behind, is keeping millions from re-building their lives, often for years on end."

'Damning verdict'

The monitor also keeps track of the number of internal displacements: each new forced movement of a person within their borders. People can be displaced several times over.

Last year there were 46.9 million forced movements of people - 20.5 million internal displacements by conflict and violence, and 26.4 million by disasters.

Fighting in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Palestinian territories accounted for nearly two-thirds of new movements of people due to conflict in 2023.

In the Gaza Strip, 1.7 million Palestinians were internally displaced by the end of 2023, with 3.4 million new movements. The bloodiest-ever Gaza war broke out in October last year.

Throughout 2023, there were six million forced movements of people caused by the violence in Sudan - more than in the previous 14 years combined.

It is the second-highest number of forced movements within a year after Ukraine's 16.9 million in 2022.

Of the 26.4 million forced movements due to disasters, a third were in China and Turkey as a result of severe weather events and high-magnitude earthquakes.

The IDMC was created by the Norwegian Refugee Council in 1998.

"We have never, ever recorded so many people forced away from their homes and communities. It is a damning verdict on the failures of conflict prevention and peace-making," said NRC chief Jan Egeland.

"The lack of protection and assistance that millions endure cannot be allowed to continue."