The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says in a new report that 9.1 million Africans are currently refugees in their own countries in the continent’s central and eastern regions.
OCHA reports this is 400 000 less than at the end of June, but because of the fluidity of the situation officials advised against laying too much store on the reduction.
UN News Centre says OCHA further noted that these refugees – called internal displaced people (IDPs) in UN circles, are sometimes continually moving, either returning home or being uprooted a second time.
The number of refugees forced to seek haven outside their homelands as of December stood at 1.8 million, with most of them hosted by Chad, Tanzania and Kenya.
Half the IDPs – 4 576 250 – are in Sudan alone, with 2 700 000 of them in the war-torn Darfur region, according to the Displaced Populations Report for July-December 2008.
Displacement in the region is triggered mainly by intra-State conflicts and natural disasters such as floods and drought, with 72 per cent in the Greater Horn of Africa region, reflecting mainly the combined internal displacement from the strife-related crises in Sudan and Somalia.
Frequently, several of these causes affect a country or region at the same time, creating complex humanitarian emergencies. Scarcity of resources, limited access to land and inconclusive peace and reconciliation processes create multiple challenges for the process of return, according to the report, which covers Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
Humanitarian response to both acute and long-term displacement is often hampered by lack of access to the affected people due to ongoing conflict and persistent high insecurity including targeting of humanitarian workers and assets, the report notes.
Data was obtained from UN agencies, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Red Cross family, governments and local authorities.
On 18 December, marking the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes launched a global campaign to raise awareness about the plight of IDPs. The campaign focus in 2009 will be on preventing displacement and finding solutions to the problem.