Africa’s Silent Refugee Crisis: Internal Displacement

Africa’s Silent Refugee Crisis: Internal Displacement

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 40.8 million people worldwide have been internally displaced, or forced to flee from their home to another location within their country due to conflict, violence, or natural disaster. With 12.4 million displaced people, Africa accounts for nearly one third of this figure. In 2015 alone, 2.4 million were displaced due to conflict and violence, with the most internally displaced people (IDPs) from Nigeria. The International Organization for Migration (IDMC) estimates that Boko Haram, an African extremist group, was responsible for 90 percent of Nigerian displacement. IDMC calculates that natural disasters, 93 percent of which were floods, displaced another 1.1 million. On average, 9,500 people in Africa were displaced each day of 2015. Furthermore, IDMC’s data does not include victims of slow-onset disasters, such as drought, and only accounts for 21 of Africa’s 54 countries.

Case Study: Burundi

IDPs live in displacement camps managed by independent humanitarian organizations. Though these camps may have small markets or offer an informal education to the local youth, most residents sit idle indefinitely. While Africa as a continent needs 100 million jobs to satisfy their unemployed population, only 37 million have been created, leaving no prospects for marginalized IDPs. For years, IDPs were the responsibility of their respective governments, but not technically protected by law. Instead, countries were expected to adhere to a set of guidelines when dealing with the displaced populations. In contrast, refugees are aided by the 1951 UN Geneva Convention and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees which requires countries to provide them with food, shelter, and medical assistance. Unlike IDPs, refugees are displaced outside national borders.

At the Kampala Convention of October 2009, the African Union signed a treaty agreeing to better support IDPs. In 2012, it was ratified by a fifteenth country and thereby put into effect. Under the treaty, governments are required to prevent displacement, prosecute those responsible for displacement, and provide IDPs with relief supplies. These nations must welcome and encourage the assistance of independent organizations they had once shunned. Further, the treaty instructed all governments involved to reimburse IDPs for the losses they suffered. However, these countries lack the financial means to do so.



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