By: Micah Price ~Staff Writer~
High numbers of African citizens are displaced within their own countries as opposed to crossing borders.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, (IDMC), 40.8 million people around the world are currently refugees in their own nations.
Nearly one-third of these people live on the African continent alone, 12.4 million in more than 20 countries.
Internal displacement in Africa at the end of 2015 dwarfed the number of refugees who had crossed borders on the continent by nearly 7 million.
Despite these statistics, IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak says that few people acknowledge this problem, even though “the figures are quite staggering, the problem is far bigger.”
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, an internally displaced person is anyone who, “as a result of conflict, violence, natural and manmade disasters or development projects has been forced to leave their habitual place of residence within a country, regardless of whether or not they are a citizen and or national of that country.”
The majority of internally displaced people find themselves on the run due to conflicts and violence, as well as disasters, both natural and manmade.
According to data from the IDMC, while conflict is the leading cause of internal displacement, sudden natural disasters affected 1.1 million people in 2015, 93 percent of which were due to flooding.
Nigeria, which in recent years has dealt with an insurgency from Boko Haram, a religious extremist group based in the northeast of the country as well as neighboring nations.
The group, which aligns itself with ISIS, has led an offensive that is blamed for displacing 90 percent of the 1.8 million Nigerians who find themselves removed from their homes.
Many internally displaced peoples live in what the International Organization for Migration (IOM) calls “host communities,” up to 75 percent by most estimates.
Most of the rest live in camps run by humanitarian organizations, some with populations as many as 35,000.
Legally, all of these people hold a different status than that of a border crossing refugee, although many who choose or who are forced to leave a nation start off as internally displaced.
Until governments worldwide begin to protect refugees within nations as well as those who cross borders, internally displaced people will continue to struggle to find protection and opportunities to reestablish their lives and homes.