In 2020, conflict and disasters triggered 40.5 million new internal displacements across 149 countries and territories.
"Conflict, violence and disasters continue to uproot millions of people from their homes every year. Never in IDMC’s history have we recorded more people living in internal displacement worldwide than we do today."
Alexandra Bilak, Director, IDMC
There were 55 million internally displaced people across the world at the end of 2020, 48 million as a result of conflict and violence, and 7 million as a result of disasters.
More than 23 million people under the age of 18 were internally displaced worldwide, with significant impacts on their education. The global cost of one year of displacement was $20.5 billion in 2020. The figure includes the cost of providing people displaced by conflict and violence with support for their housing, education, health and security, and accounts for their loss of income.
Most new displacements triggered by conflict and violence in 2020 were recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. The majority took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Ethiopia, as in previous years.
Most new displacements triggered by disasters in 2020 were recorded in East Asia and the Pacific as well as South Asia. Tropical cyclones, monsoon rains and floods hit highly exposed areas that are home to millions of people.
M for conflict
M for disasters
M for conflict
The year 2020 marked the tenth anniversary of the start of the Arab spring. In Libya, Syria and Yemen, where the uprising escalated into armed conflict, internal displacement continues to have devastating impacts. Around 11.8 million people were living as IDPs across the region as a result of conflict and violence, and many obstacles remain to their finding safety, rebuilding their lives and achieving durable solutions.
M for disasters
Most of the disaster displacement recorded globally in 2020 took place in the East Asia and Pacific region. Typhoons, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions triggered 12.1 million new displacements, the highest figure since 2016 and above the region’s 10-year average. Powerful storms and flooding fuelled by climatic variations such as La Niña triggered 94 per cent of them.
M for disasters
The region accounted for almost one third of the world’s new disaster displacements in 2020. Around 9.2 million were recorded, an above-average figure for the second year in a row. Cyclone Amphan triggered nearly five million evacuations across Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Bhutan in May, making it the largest disaster displacement event of the year globally. Monsoon rains and floods affected the whole region from June onwards, particularly Bangladesh.
M for disasters
Disasters triggered the vast majority of new displacements in the Americas in 2020 with 4.5 million recorded, the highest figure in ten years. Devastating wildfires triggered mass displacement in the United States. Unprecedented displacement took place in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which were badly affected by the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. Conflict and violence triggered around 238,000 displacements, including in El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
Disasters triggered 234,000 new displacements in Europe and Central Asia in 2020, the second highest figure on record for the region. New displacements by conflict and violence were also recorded, largely as a result of the fighting that broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh in September.
Persistent misconceptions surround disaster displacement, with serious implications for people, policy and responses. These misconceptions include, for example, that disaster displacement is short-term, when in reality it often becomes protracted. The role that climate change plays in driving disaster displacement is also often seen as a direct one. However, not all weather-related disasters and their associated displacement are directly related to climate change.
There have been significant advances in the development of national and regional policies on disaster displacement and climate-related migration, and global attention on the issue is growing. A number of countries now recognise it as an issue of national and global priority. Implementation, and assessing progress in doing so, are the next priorities.
Filling the data gaps on displacement associated with disasters and climate change is essential if we are to understand how the phenomenon impedes progress on achieving the sustainable development agenda.
The Covid-19 pandemic heightened IDPs’ needs and generated new risks in 2020, while creating significant operational and financial challenges for governments and their humanitarian partners.Special feature: Impacts of Covid-19 on internal displacement →
Or choose a section:
Alexandra Bilak has almost 20 years’ experience in the international non-profit sector, with a focus on research and policy development on displacement in the context of armed conflict, violence, disasters and climate change. She joined the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Geneva as Head of Policy and Research in 2014, where she directed the first publication of IDMC’s flagship report the Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID), becoming its Director in August 2016.
Prior to joining IDMC, Alexandra spent a decade working in sub-Saharan Africa for international NGOs and research institutes, including Oxfam, the Life & Peace Institute, the International Rescue Committee and the Danish Refugee Council. She lived and worked in Rwanda in 2001, the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2004 to 2008, and in Kenya from 2009 to 2014. She has published extensively on the themes of forced displacement, conflict and civil society development.
Alexandra holds a Master's degree in International Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and a DEA (Diplôme d’Études Approfondies) in African Studies and Political Science from the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. She is bilingual French-English.
Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). In September 2015, Egeland was appointed by the UN Secretary-General as Special Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria with a focus on humanitarian access and protection of civilians. He ended this role in December 2018.
From 2003-2006, Egeland served as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Before taking up his post in NRC in 2013, Egeland came from the position as Europe Director of Human Rights Watch (2011−2013), and prior to that as Executive Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (2007−2011).
He has also served as the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser to Colombia (1999−2001) and State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1990−1997). In 2006, Time Magazine named Egeland as one of the ‘100 people who shape our world’.
Bina has extensive programme and research experience on socio-economic development in low income countries. Having previously worked in Bangladesh, Ghana, Honduras, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and the Philippines, her research interests include the structural causes of crises, economic and development impacts of disaster and conflict, internal displacement and forced migration.
She has worked for the German Ministry for Development, the Aga Khan Development Network, Christian Aid and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
In 2017, Bina joined IDMC as the Head of Policy & Research and leads IDMC's team of senior advisors and researchers in displacement-related policy analysis and evidence building. Bina holds a Masters in Economics and Sociology from the University of Bielefeld and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
Vicente leads the global and regional analysis team at IDMC and coordinates the production of the Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID), working closely with all departments for the development of IDMC’s flagship report on internal displacement.
He previously worked at UNISDR, where he worked on a global policy review exercise that formed the basis for national policy indicators for the Sendai Framework, as well as coordinating research and country programmes, developing disaster loss and damage data and analysis, and government capacity building on risk knowledge at national and regional levels. He worked in a number of countries across Africa, Central and Southern Asia, and the Pacific.
Vicente holds a BA in History and Geography from the University of Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia) and a MA in Human Geography and Migration Studies from the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland). He speaks Spanish, French and English.
Vincent is a Regional Coordinator at IDMC, he focuses on monitoring and research on displacement in the Asia Pacific region. Vincent joined IDMC in 2016 as a monitoring expert for the Data and Analysis Department.
With over 15 years of experience consulting on data analysis, information management and visual communications, Vincent has been involved in issues ranging from public health, urban issues, humanitarian response, to disaster risk reduction. He has been a data and digital communications guru, trainer and designer for the UN in Switzerland, served as an information management advisor to the Humanitarian Coordinator in Timor-Leste, and also provided expertise on spatial analysis and mapping for UNOCHA in the Asia and the Pacific region. Vincent has also consulted on similar projects for UNDP in South East Asia, health NGOs in the Balkans, and local and federal governments in Canada.
Vincent is a geographer and holds a Master’s in International Urban and Environmental Management from RMIT University with a focus on behavioral studies. He speaks English, French, and Cantonese and has basic knowledge of Japanese and Thai.
Ivana is a Regional Coordinator at IDMC, she focuses on monitoring and research on displacement in the Middle East and Africa. She joined IDMC in 2016, bringing experience in humanitarian needs and conflict analysis. Ivana has a background in humanitarian and human rights law and she previously worked on humanitarian needs analysis and assessment, and human rights advocacy with national and international NGOs.
Ivana holds Master’s degree in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action from Sciences Po Paris and spent one semester studying international law and history of violence at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
Ivana is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Czech. She can also communicate in Arabic.