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United Nations Global Issues

Refugees

The Numbers

More than 43 million people worldwide are now forcibly displaced as a result of conflict and persecution, the highest number since the mid-1990s. Several million people remain displaced because of natural disasters, although updated statistics are not available.

More than 15 million of the uprooted are refugees who fled their home countries, while another 27 million are people who remain displaced by conflict within their own homelands -- so-called ‘internally displaced people.’

Two United Nations agencies, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), are responsible for safeguarding the rights and well-being of the world’s refugees.

Major refugee populations include Palestinians (4.8 million), Afghans (2.9 million), Iraqis (1.8 million), Somalis (700,000), Congolese (456,000),  Myanmarese (407,000), Colombians (390,000), Sudanese (370,000).

“Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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“Today’s challenges are interconnected and complex. Population growth, urbanization, climate change, water scarcity and food and energy insecurity are exacerbating conflict and combining in other ways that oblige people to flee their countries.”  UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

Major internally displaced populations at the end of 2009 included Colombia (3.3 million); Democratic Republic of the Congo (2.1 million); Pakistan (1.9 million); Somalia (1.55 million); Sudan (1 million).

Children constitute about 41 percent of the world’s refugees, and about half of all refugees are women.

About two-thirds of the world’s refugees have been in exile for more than five years, many of them with no end in sight.

Four-fifths of all refugees are in the developing world, in nations that can least afford to host them.

More than half of the world’s refugees are in urban environments, not in camps.