One person displaced every three seconds in 2016

Henrietta Brewer
June 26, 2017

As more than 1,000 children continue to flee South Sudan, on average every day in search of safety, the region's refugee crisis has become a children's crisis, UNICEF said today, on World Refugee Day.

Overall, the refugee population from the world's youngest country swelled 85 percent previous year to reach 1.4 million by the end of 2016, the UNHCR report showed. However, it is still much less dramatic leap than in 2014-2015, when the number of people forced to flee their homes, has increased by five million.

About 22.5 million people are seeking safety across global borders as refugees, which is the highest number recorded since the UNHCR's founding in 1950 following World War II. The figure, the United Nations stated, translates to "one person being displaced every three second - less than the time it takes to read this sentence".

No fewer than 12,5 million of these people have been put out of their homes in their own countries.

"By any measure this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common goal in preventing and resolving crises", said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement. There were slightly less internally displaced people in 2016, around 40.3 million, compared to 2015, which had 40.8 million.

Another 22.5 million people - half of them children - were registered as refugees a year ago, the UNHCR report showed, pointing out that this is "the highest level ever recorded". Ongoing crises in sub-Saharan Africa have resulted in large and sudden population displacements, which results in neighboring countries opening their borders to those fleeing conflict. Since then, almost two million people have fled fighting that the United Nations has said amounts in some areas to ethnic cleansing.

The U.N. attributes a lot of that uptick to the Syrian war.

The UN said it hoped Monday's record breaking numbers of displaced would encourage wealthy countries to think again: not just to accept more refugees, but to invest in peace promotion, and reconstruction.

Grandi said the US government gave $1.5 billion to the UN refugee agency a year ago - more than any other nation.

Uganda's government and the United Nations are appealing for $8 billion to deal with the crisis of refugees from South Sudan.

It's a day to "show sympathy and solidarity in words and actions - make a little space in our hearts for over 65 million people who depend on the worldwide community", Hebecker told the event attended by more than 300 people at the United Nations University in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. It is among the top three countries along with Syria and Afghanistan accounting for 55 per cent of refugees worldwide.

It also illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported, the absence of which can create instability, have consequences for lifesaving humanitarian work, or lead to secondary displacement.

Ethiopian officials also vowed to continue the country's open door policy for people affected by war and looming starvation in South Sudan.

More than half of refugees globally come from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

"We do need to think about how people displaced within their own countries are protected because there's a chance that if protection there is lacking, sometimes people will move on and cross borders", she says.

One bright spot was that more refugees returned home than in years past (552,200 people).

"The worldwide neglect that you see here is matched nowhere else in the world", Grandi told The Associated Press.

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