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More than 14 million people internally displaced in first half of 2020: Report

Majority of global displacements caused by natural disasters, while Syrians were biggest group displaced by conflict
Children ride in back of truck passing by internally-displaced persons camp west of Aleppo, Syria, in February (AFP/File photo)

Millions of people have been displaced by conflict and natural disasters this year, according to a report by a Swiss-based watchdog. 

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) said in its report on Wednesday that more than 14 million people were uprooted from their homes during the first six months of 2020. 

The majority of those internal displacements, 9.8 million, were caused by natural disasters including cyclones, floods, wildfires and locust infestations.

Another 4.8 million - a million more than in the first half of 2019 - were caused by conflicts, mostly in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burkina Faso.

At the end of last year, there was a global total of 50.8 million internally displaced people. 

The report predicted that millions more were likely to be displaced in the coming months amid extreme weather and ongoing violence. 

"The staggering figures recorded in the first six months of the year are testament to the persistent volatility of displacement crises worldwide," said IDMC director Alexandra Bilak.

"Compounding this is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced access to healthcare and increased economic hardship and protection risks for displaced communities."

Increase in Syria and Libya 

In Syria, almost 1.5 million people were displaced between January and June, the highest number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Middle East this year. 

Renewed attacks by the Syrian government in Idlib during the first three months of the year triggered the most displacements of any three-month period since war broke out in 2011, IDMC found.  

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Some 80 percent of those who fled were women and children, and for more than half of those displaced it was the second or third time they had been forced to flee.

"The humanitarian situation was aggravated by the fact that options for refuge were limited, particularly because the border with Turkey is closed," the report said. 

In Libya, at least 39,000 people were internally displaced in the six-month timeframe. The report said most of the new displacements recorded by IDMC were triggered by "intense fighting" between the UN-backed government of national accord (GNA) and troops led by Khalifa Haftar, who has been trying to capture Tripoli since last April.

Iraq has seen a signifigant decrease in IDPs this year, with 4,000 displaced in the first half of 2020, compared with 51,000 during the same period in 2019. 

Tens of thousands uprooted in Yemen

Meanwhile, Yemen has been affected by both conflict and natural disasters. About 89,000 people were uprooted by the war in Yemen, a decrease from the same period last year, according to the report. 

Earlier this month, UN investigators found that countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Iran are fuelling the devastation in Yemen by continuing to supply weapons to warring parties. 

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A Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Iran-backed Houthi movement, a group traditionally based in the country's north, toppled the internationally recognised government.

While displacements caused by conflict were down this year, disasters, mainly floods, triggered twice as many new displacements in the first half of the year as in the whole of 2019, the report said. 

The largest single cause of global displacements was caused by a natural disaster, as Cyclone Amphan triggered 3.3 million evacuations in India and Bangladesh, the report said. 

In addition, several countries in East Africa suffered major floods and a locust infestation that further destabilised food security in the region.

A 30-page report released by Brown University's Costs of War project found that over the last two decades at least 37 million people, mostly civilians, had been displaced as a direct result of the US "war on terror".