The number of people forced from their homes within their own country by war and terror across the globe hit a record high in 2015, driven by the brutal violence that has engulfed the Middle East and North Africa over the last several years, according to a new survey released Wednesday.
The report, complied by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center and the Norwegian Refugee Council, found that an estimated 40.8 million people had been internally displaced due to ongoing conflicts or natural disasters.
In 2015 alone, over 27 million new refugees were created in 127 countries and of that total, 8.6 million people were internally displaced by violence and just over 19 million by natural disasters.
“This is roughly equivalent to every man, woman and child in New York City, London, Paris and Cairo grabbing what they could carry and fleeing their homes in search of safety,” the 108-page study reported.
Just 10 countries accounted for more than two-thirds of the total, or around 30 million people.
Unsurprisingly, refugees attempting to escape countries in the Middle East accounted for nearly 5 million, or over half, of the new war refugees tallied in 2015, according to the report. Other countries include South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Colombia.
“As the world’s attention focused on the flow of refugees out of the region, millions were displaced internally in the Middle East, more than in the rest of the world combined,” said Carsten Hansen, NRC’s regional director in the Middle East, told German newspaper Deutsche Welle.
Civilians from Yemen, Syria and Iraq “accounted for over half of the total” of new war refugees in 2015.
“Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa has snowballed since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2010 and the rise of the Islamic State,” according to the report.
Among the worst hit was Yemen, which saw 2.2 million of its citizens leave the country as Saudi-backed government troops waged a bloody civil wart against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.
A Saudi-led Arab military coalition is also conducting counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, the Yemeni cell considered the group’s most active and dangerous to U.S. and Western national security interests.
Last week, the Pentagon acknowledged that a small U.S. military team has been on the ground in Yemen for several weeks, carrying out intelligence and support operations for the Arab coalition fighting AQAP.
Alexandra Bilak, the IDMC’s interim director, said the world’s governments must do more to ease the plight of refugees displaced by wars and natural disasters, with the time refugees blocked from returning home lengthening.
“The numbers are increasing every year, which clearly shows that the solutions to displacement are not being found,” she told the Reuters news agency.
“People are not returning, they are not locally integrating where they have found refuge, and they are certainly not being resettled somewhere else,” she added.