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Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2021: Chapter 1

People and crisis

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Summary

People living in poverty are disproportionately at risk of experiencing humanitarian crisis. Those living in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day), with reduced capacity to manage and respond to shocks, are increasingly concentrated in countries facing intersecting vulnerabilities, living in fragile states and at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19.[1]

In 2020, 66% of people living in extreme poverty also lived in fragile countries. Nearly all (95%) of people living in extreme poverty in fragile states were in countries at high risk from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The economic shocks of the pandemic have exacerbated rising food insecurity, with people living in poverty disproportionately affected. Over 80% of people living in areas experiencing severe food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above) are estimated to live below the international poverty line of $3.20 a day.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic both compounded existing need and fuelled new crises in countries not previously in need of humanitarian assistance, with increases in both the total number of people requiring humanitarian assistance and the number of countries experiencing humanitarian crisis. An estimated 243.8 million people living in 75 countries were assessed to be in need of humanitarian assistance. In 2020, 14 countries had UN-coordinated appeals solely to address needs related to Covid-19.

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated need in many existing crises. The number of countries experiencing protracted crisis grew from 31 in 2019 to 34 in 2020.[2] Of these 34 countries, 25 were assessed to be at high or very high risk from the impacts of Covid-19. Despite this high level of risk, countries experiencing protracted crisis have some of the lowest rates of Covid-19 vaccination coverage in the world. In May 2021, populations living in countries experiencing protracted crisis have an average single-dose vaccination rate of just 2.4%. In other developing countries covered by the COVAX scheme, this rate is 12.5%.

The numbers of displaced people in the world grew for the ninth consecutive year. In 2020, the total number of displaced people increased to 82.1 million (a 3.4% rise). More than half (52%) of displaced people lived in countries at very high or high risk from the impacts of Covid-19. Exposure to the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic is particularly stark for people displaced in sub-Saharan Africa, where 99% of the displaced people were living in countries assessed to be at high or very high risk of the impacts of Covid-19.

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Crisis risks and vulnerabilities

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Figure 1.1: People living in extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated in fragile countries at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19

Number of people living in extreme poverty in fragile states and/or countries with high risk of impacts from Covid-19, 2010 vs 2020

Figure 1.1: People living in extreme poverty are increasingly concentrated in fragile countries at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19
People living in extreme poverty in fragile states and/or countries with high risk of impacts from Covid-19 Year Number of people
People living in extreme poverty 2010 1,125,011,931
People living in extreme poverty in fragile states 2010 454,365,520
People living in extreme poverty 2020 740,288,342
People living in extreme poverty in fragile states 2020 489,404,339
People living in extreme poverty in countries at high risk of impacts from Covid-19 2020 503,379,190
People living in extreme poverty in fragile states and countries at high risk of impacts from Covid-19 2020 466,482,008

Source: Development Initiatives based on World Bank PovcalNet, national sources, INFORM Index for COVID Risk and OECD.

Notes: Fragile states are 52 countries classified as 'fragile' or 'extremely fragile' in 2016, 2018 and 2020 by OECD States of Fragility reports. People living in extreme poverty are defined as living on less than $1.90 a day (2011 PPP).

People living in extreme poverty are often the most vulnerable to shocks. By definition, those living in extreme poverty have very low socioeconomic resilience but they also often have limited access to the services and infrastructure that can help when shocks occur. When shocks overwhelm communities and crisis develops, the heightened vulnerability of people living in poverty makes recovery from crisis situations harder to achieve, with increasing numbers of countries experiencing protracted crises.[3]

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the challenges posed by systemic shocks to the current systems and structures of humanitarian and wider development assistance.[4] The complex immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic, beyond the immediate health crisis, have highlighted the importance of a coordinated response, and one that coherently addresses both immediate needs and the underlying causes and drivers of crisis. This requires better coordination and collaboration between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding assistance – as outlined for instance in the nexus recommendation of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD DAC) – and engagement and partnership among actors with differing expertise in crisis contexts (see section entitled, ‘Global development funding and the role of multilateral development banks’, Chapter 2; and section entitled, ‘Multilateral development bank financing to countries experiencing crisis’, Chapter 3).

People living in extreme poverty, with reduced capacity to manage and respond to shocks, are increasingly concentrated in countries facing intersecting vulnerabilities. They often live in fragile countries, at high risk from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and already experiencing protracted crisis.

  • Many people living in extreme poverty are already experiencing humanitarian crisis. In 2020, of the 52 countries identified as consistently fragile, 36 had UN-coordinated humanitarian appeals and 28 were experiencing protracted crisis.
  • People living in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day) are increasingly concentrated in fragile countries. In 2010, 40% of the world’s poorest people lived in fragile countries. By 2020, this share had risen to 66%.
  • This increased concentration has been driven by unequal progress in poverty reduction, which has disproportionately occurred in countries that are not fragile. The total number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 740 million in 2020. However, the number of people experiencing extreme poverty in fragile states grew by 8%, while in non-fragile states it fell by 63%.
  • Those experiencing extreme poverty are more susceptible to intersecting risks: 95% of people (466 million of 489 million) experiencing extreme poverty and living in fragile countries are in countries identified as being at either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Figure 1.2: Acute food insecurity disproportionately impacts the poorest

Percentage of people living in poverty and extreme poverty in places where there is food insecurity

Figure 1.2: Acute food insecurity disproportionately impacts the poorest
People living in extreme poverty People living in poverty People living above the poverty line
Places where IPC has observed crisis/emergency/famine levels of food insecurity 62% 20% 19%
Places where IPC has observed stressed/minimal levels of food insecurity 47% 24% 28%
Rest of world (areas without observed food insecurity) 7% 14% 79%

Source: Development Initiatives based on Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), demographic health surveys, UNICEF multiple indicator cluster surveys, World Bank PovcalNet and national sources.

Notes: Acute food insecurity score based on average mapped phase for subnational regions analysed by IPC, 2019–2021. Food insecurity phase and poverty data are aggregated to the lowest common administrative subnational level with representative data; where no representative subnational poverty data exists at any level, the national average is used; where subnational data does not align exactly, the closest match is used. Subnational poverty data is estimated using the approach described by the P20 initiative.

High and rising rates of food insecurity in recent years have been exacerbated by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,[5] with the risk that food insecurity will become an even more significant driver of humanitarian need.[6]

  • In 30 countries with subnational regions classified by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) system[7] as being in Phase 3 or above (facing crisis, emergency or catastrophe/famine), almost half of these countries (14) were already experiencing protracted crisis in 2020.

IPC analysis includes 425 million people, of which 142 million live in areas with an IPC classification of ‘Crisis’ or higher (Phase 3 or above). People living in poverty, who often have reduced capacity to cope with shocks, are disproportionately represented in areas of severe food insecurity.

  • Of the 142 million people living in subnational regions identified as experiencing severe food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above), over three fifths (62%, or 87.5 million people) are estimated to be living below the extreme poverty line. This compares to 47% in areas which are Phase 1 or 2, and just 7% of the rest of the world with no observed acute food insecurity.
  • Over 80% of people living in areas experiencing severe food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above) are estimated to live below the international poverty line of $3.20 a day: 10 percentage points higher than for those living in Phase 1 and 2 areas. By contrast, just 22% of the rest of the world’s population lives below the $3.20 a day poverty line.
  • Subnational regions experiencing severe food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above) have consistently and significantly higher poverty rates than those at lower phases within the same country.

Box 1.1

Impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and girls

Information available on the experience of women and girls in humanitarian crisis settings points to a number of negative trends likely to worsen following the Covid-19 pandemic. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) identified nearly 48 million women and girls, 4 million of them pregnant, in need of humanitarian assistance in 2020.[8] Before the pandemic, estimations of women’s and girls’ needs in humanitarian settings showed their disproportionate vulnerability to gender-based violence (GBV). In its 2021 Global Humanitarian Overview, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs continued to report that women and girls in conflict zones are twice as likely as those not affected by conflict to experience GBV.[9] They are also less likely to survive natural hazards than men, and are often the last to get food during droughts.[10]

More recent research undertaken during the Covid-19 crisis indicates that this gender gap in humanitarian contexts is likely to increase. UNFPA has highlighted the higher risk of Covid-19 infections in women – as they represent 70% of the global health force – and the long-term challenges to their physical wellbeing that this could pose.[11] UNFPA also warns that the pandemic could result in 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that otherwise would not have occurred.[12] This concern is echoed by international non-governmental organisation Plan International, which estimates that millions of girls have already opted out of school in 2020 following the financial recession, most of them to alleviate the economic pressure on their families by joining the workforce or getting married at an early age.[13]

Addressing current and future needs of women and girls will require increased efforts in collecting and analysing gender-disaggregated data from crisis contexts. The estimations and qualitative evidence mentioned above show worrying trends regarding the impact of Covid-19 on women and girls. However, none of the available estimates or projections on poverty rates identified by Development Initiatives showed a gender disaggregation based on data gathered at an individual level. Estimates based on household-level data, which are otherwise available, necessarily mask gender differences and intra-household inequalities in access to income and resources. Existing poverty statistics that exclusively utilise household-level data cannot accurately measure gender differences in deprivation.

Enhanced reporting of official development assistance specifically targeted to GBV could also make future humanitarian assistance more effective. Donors within the OECD DAC could improve their reporting of gender-related aid, even if this is often implemented as a cross-cutting theme rather than in specific projects, by making better use of codes and markers in the Creditor Reporting System. Development Initiatives’ research has identified a gradual increase[14] in the use of the OECD DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker and the marker related to GBV, which can provide a more comprehensive picture of official development assistance aimed at addressing gender needs.

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People affected by crisis

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Figure 1.3: The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates humanitarian crises, with more people in more countries affected

People in need, type and severity of crisis, and funding requirements, 2020

Figure 1.3: The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates humanitarian crises, with more people in more countries affected
Country ID Country Number of people in need (millions) Severity score Risk related to Covid-19 Protracted crisis marker Years of consecutive crisis Conflict marker Displacement marker Hazard marker Country response plan requirements (US$) Regional response plan requirements (US$) Country response plan funded (US$) Regional response plans funded (US$) Coverage of country response plan (%) Coverage of regional response plans (%)
YEM Yemen 24.2 4 High 1 13 1 1 1 3,383 - 1,948 - 58%
COD Congo (the Democratic Republic of the) 23.4 4 Very high 1 21 1 1 1 2,069 78 836 30 40% 39%
VEN Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 14.3 3 Medium 0 3 0 1 0 763 - 164 - 22%
AFG Afghanistan 14.0 4 Very high 1 13 1 1 1 1,131 - 564 - 50%
SYR Syrian Arab Republic 11.7 5 Medium 1 9 1 1 1 3,818 - 2,225 - 58%
PRK Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of) 10.9 4 Medium 1 6 0 0 1 147 - 32 - 22%
NGA Nigeria 9.4 4 High 1 7 1 1 1 1,080 - 622 - 58%
SDN Sudan (the) 9.3 5 High 1 21 1 1 1 1,633 360 868 158 53% 44%
COL Colombia 8.9 4 Medium 0 3 1 1 1 494 739 63 - 13% 0%
ETH Ethiopia 8.9 5 High 1 7 1 1 1 1,251 375 742 39 59% 10%
SSD South Sudan 7.2 4 Very high 1 10 1 1 1 1,901 - 1,234 - 65%
ZWE Zimbabwe 7.0 3 High 0 2 0 1 1 801 - 210 - 26%
TCD Chad 6.4 4 Very high 1 17 1 1 1 665 16 288 11 43% 73%
SOM Somalia 5.3 5 Very high 1 21 1 1 1 1,010 - 830 - 82%
IRQ Iraq 4.3 4 Medium 1 9 1 1 0 784 294 625 - 80% 0%
MLI Mali 4.3 3 High 1 17 1 1 1 474 - 229 - 48%
HTI Haiti 4.1 4 Very high 1 11 0 0 1 472 - 155 - 33%
PHL Philippines (the) 4.1 3 Medium 0 1 1 0 1 122 - 21 - 17%
LBN Lebanon 3.8 4 High 1 9 0 1 1 333 2,354 286 - 86% 0%
NER Niger (the) 3.7 4 High 1 16 1 1 1 516 104 384 25 74% 24%
KEN Kenya 3.6 3 High 1 13 1 1 1 255 106 62 30 25% 29%
UKR Ukraine 3.5 4 Medium 1 7 1 0 0 205 - 128 - 63%
CMR Cameroon 3.5 4 High 1 7 1 1 1 391 61 195 28 50% 46%
GTM Guatemala 3.3 3 Medium 0 0 0 1 1 - - - -
PAK Pakistan 3.0 2 High 1 5 1 0 1 146 - 90 - 61%
BGD Bangladesh 3.0 4 High 1 5 0 1 1 1,264 - 687 - 54%
IRN Iran (Islamic Republic of) 3.0 4 Medium 0 2 0 1 1 117 - 74 - 63%
CAF Central African Republic 2.8 4 Very high 1 18 1 1 1 554 - 385 1 70%
TUR Turkey 2.7 3 Medium 1 9 1 1 0 - 1,302 - - 0%
MWI Malawi 2.6 3 High 0 0 0 0 1 - - - -
ERI Eritrea 2.6 3 High 0 0 1 0 0 - - - -
PSE Palestine, State of 2.5 4 High 1 18 1 0 0 420 - 295 - 70%
ZMB Zambia 2.3 3 High 0 3 0 0 1 215 75 41 10 19% 14%
BFA Burkina Faso 2.2 5 High 1 17 1 0 1 424 - 258 - 61%
MOZ Mozambique 1.9 3 High 0 2 1 1 1 114 - 107 - 94%
IND India 1.8 3 Medium 0 0 1 0 1 - - - -
BDI Burundi 1.7 4 Very high 1 5 0 0 1 198 51 89 12 45% 24%
UGA Uganda 1.7 3 High 1 7 0 1 1 200 849 30 202 15% 24%
HND Honduras 1.3 3 Medium 0 0 0 0 1 - - - -
LBY Libya 1.1 4 Medium 1 6 1 1 0 130 - 119 - 92%

Source: Development Initiatives based on ACAPS, Food and Agriculture Organization, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, INFORM Index for Risk Management, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS) data.

Notes: HRP = humanitarian response plan; RRP = regional response plan. Countries selected using ACAPS data and corresponding estimates of people in need. Countries with fewer than an estimated one million people in need are not shown. Level of risk indicates whether these countries are at risk from health and humanitarian impacts of Covid-19 that could overwhelm current national response capacity, and therefore lead to a need for additional international assistance. For further information on coding crisis types see our online 'Methodology and definitions' (Chapter 5). For Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon, data is not available for what proportion of the total regional response requirement under the Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan was covered for each country component.

In 2020, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic compounded existing crises for many people. Protracted, complex crises persisted in Yemen, Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. In some contexts, like Iran, the Covid-19 pandemic was the primary driver of humanitarian need. In 2020, the number of people needing humanitarian assistance and the number of countries experiencing humanitarian crisis grew.

  • In 2020, an estimated 243.8 million people living in 75 countries were assessed to be in need of humanitarian assistance. This compares to 224.9 million people living in 65 countries in 2019.
  • The increased level of humanitarian need driven by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was evident in the number of countries covered by UN-coordinated appeals, which increased from 36 in 2019 to 55 in 2020 (see Figure 2.2, Chapter 2). Nearly all country appeals had needs associated with Covid-19, with 14 requiring assistance solely to address the impacts of the pandemic.

Because the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded existing crises in many countries, recovery becomes even more difficult.

  • In 2020, the number of countries experiencing protracted crisis grew to 34, from 31 in 2019.
  • Of these 34 countries, 25 were assessed to be at high or very high risk from the impacts of Covid-19.

In many countries, people experienced a number of intersecting crisis risks and vulnerabilities (see Figure 1.1), often resulting in complex crises with different forms of crisis overlaying one another. The Covid-19 pandemic contributed to the challenges posed by conflict, displacement and other disasters associated with natural hazards.

  • Among the 40 countries with high levels of humanitarian need (identified as having more than 1 million people in need), two thirds (27 of 40) were assessed to be at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • In many of these countries where the risks from the impacts of the pandemic were high or very high, the Covid-19 pandemic was overlaying an already complex crisis context. Three quarters (20 of 27) of countries experienced more than one form of crisis – conflict, displacement or disasters associated with natural hazards – with more than half experiencing all three (15 of 27).
  • In total, among the 40 countries with high levels of humanitarian need, 33 experienced disasters associated with natural hazards, 27 experienced conflict, and 27 experienced displacement.

While the numbers of people and countries affected by crisis grew in 2020, high numbers of people in need continued to be concentrated in a small number of countries.

  • More than half of those in need in 2021 lived in just nine countries.
  • Six countries each had more than ten million people in need living in their territory: Yemen (24.2 million), DRC (23.4 million), Venezuela (14.3 million), Afghanistan (14 million), Syria (11.7 million) and DPR Korea (10.9 million).
  • The numbers in need were largely unchanged from 2019 in most of these countries. However, significantly more people were identified as requiring humanitarian assistance in 2020 in DRC (7.5 million more) and Afghanistan (2.7 million more).
  • Among these nine countries, seven are experiencing protracted crisis, the exceptions being Colombia and Venezuela where the growth in the numbers of people in need has been driven by the millions displaced from Venezuela since 2018.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance relative to the size of a domestic population of a country – noting the limitations of collecting population data in some crisis contexts – can give an indication of the extent of crisis and need.

  • In 2020, seven countries had a total number of people in need equivalent to more than half of their domestic populations: Yemen (81%), Eritrea (73%), Syria (67%), South Sudan (64%), CAR (58%), Lebanon (55%) and Venezuela (50%).

Box 1.2

Covid-19 vaccination projections in countries experiencing crisis

The speed and scale of vaccination against Covid-19 are critical to the recovery of individual countries from the pandemic, as well as to the overall global recovery. Countries experiencing crisis, often with reduced capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from shocks, have already suffered from the impacts of Covid-19. Coping with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic is further undermining their capacity to respond to and recover from other shocks. Countries with high levels of fragility and experiencing crisis are disproportionately at risk in this regard (see Figure 1.1). However, to date, the availability and delivery of vaccines has not been equitable.

Countries experiencing protracted crisis have some of the lowest rates of vaccination coverage in the world. Based on data from Our World In Data in May 2021, populations living in countries experiencing protracted crisis have an average single-dose vaccination rate of just 2.4%; in other developing countries covered by the COVAX scheme, the average rate is 12.5%.[15]

COVAX (or Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) is a global programme aiming to provide equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines to 92 eligible low- and lower-middle-income countries, and forms part of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator.[16] It also includes a humanitarian buffer through which 5% of COVAX’s advance market commitment[17] funding will be reserved to fund vaccines in ‘acute outbreaks’ or for use by humanitarian groups.[18] As of May 2021, vaccines have been allocated to some countries experiencing protracted crisis but not all. 20 countries experiencing protracted crisis have begun receiving vaccines through the COVAX programme, with 66.2 million doses currently allocated between them – across a combined population of 1 billion people.[19] A further 14 countries experiencing protracted crises are in line to receive vaccines through the COVAX programme and are awaiting an official allocation.

Where vaccines have been allocated to countries experiencing protracted crisis, just under a quarter had been received by May 2021. Of the 66.2 million doses currently allocated through the COVAX facility, just over 15 million (22.7%) have been received. The rate at which vaccines have been received in other countries experiencing crisis (but not defined as experiencing protracted crisis) is slightly higher at 34.6% (24.7 million of the 71.3 million allocated doses).

More funding is required to realise the goals of the Accelerator programme and the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people. By May 2021, US$14.6 billion had been pledged towards the programme.[20] However, this represents just 44% of the identified US$33.1 billion funding required.[21]

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Forced displacement

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Figure 1.4: The number of forcibly displaced people grew for the ninth consecutive year

20 countries with the largest forcibly displaced populations and risk of impacts from Covid-19, 2019 and 2020

Figure 1.4: The number of forcibly displaced people grew for the ninth consecutive year
Rank ISO Country Risk of impacts from Covid-19 Year Refugees (including people in refugee-like situations) (millions) Internally displaced persons (millions) Asylum seekers (millions) Venezuelans displaced abroad (millions) Total displaced population (millions)
1 SYR Syria Medium 2020 0.6 6.6 0.0 - 7.2
1 SYR Syria Medium 2019 0.6 6.5 0.0 - 7.1
2 COL Colombia Medium 2020 0.0 4.9 0.0 1.8 6.7
2 COL Colombia Medium 2019 0.0 5.6 0.0 1.8 7.4
3 COD DRC Very high 2020 0.5 5.3 0.0 - 5.8
3 COD DRC Very high 2019 0.5 5.5 0.0 - 6.0
4 TUR Turkey Medium 2020 3.6 1.1 0.3 - 5.0
4 TUR Turkey Medium 2019 3.6 1.1 0.3 - 5.0
5 YEM Yemen High 2020 0.3 3.6 0.0 - 3.9
5 YEM Yemen High 2019 0.3 3.6 0.0 - 3.9
6 AFG Afghanistan Very high 2020 0.1 3.5 0.0 - 3.6
6 AFG Afghanistan Very high 2019 0.1 3.0 0.0 - 3.1
7 SDN Sudan High 2020 1.1 2.3 0.0 - 3.4
7 SDN Sudan High 2019 1.1 2.1 0.0 - 3.2
8 JOR Jordan Medium 2020 3.0 - 0.1 - 3.0
8 JOR Jordan Medium 2019 3.0 - 0.1 - 3.0
9 SOM Somalia Very high 2020 0.0 3.0 0.0 - 3.0
9 SOM Somalia Very high 2019 0.0 2.6 0.0 - 2.7
10 ETH Ethiopia High 2020 0.8 2.1 0.0 - 2.8
10 ETH Ethiopia High 2019 0.7 1.4 0.0 - 2.1
11 NGA Nigeria High 2020 0.1 2.7 0.0 - 2.8
11 NGA Nigeria High 2019 0.1 2.6 0.0 - 2.6
12 PSE Palestine High 2020 2.3 0.1 - - 2.5
12 PSE Palestine High 2019 2.3 0.2 - - 2.6
13 SSD South Sudan Very high 2020 0.3 1.4 0.0 - 1.7
13 SSD South Sudan Very high 2019 0.3 1.4 0.0 - 1.7
14 PAK Pakistan High 2020 1.4 0.1 0.0 - 1.5
14 PAK Pakistan High 2019 1.4 0.1 0.0 - 1.5
15 IRQ Iraq Medium 2020 0.3 1.2 0.0 - 1.5
15 IRQ Iraq Medium 2019 0.3 1.6 0.0 - 1.8
16 CMR Cameroon High 2020 0.4 1.0 0.0 - 1.4
16 CMR Cameroon High 2019 0.4 1.0 0.0 - 1.4
17 UGA Uganda High 2020 1.4 0.0 0.0 - 1.4
17 UGA Uganda High 2019 1.4 0.0 0.0 - 1.4
18 DEU Germany Low 2020 1.1 - 0.3 - 1.4
18 DEU Germany Low 2019 1.1 - 0.3 - 1.5
19 LBN Lebanon High 2020 1.4 0.0 0.0 - 1.4
19 LBN Lebanon High 2019 1.4 0.0 0.0 - 1.4
20 BGD Bangladesh High 2020 0.9 0.4 0.0 - 1.3
20 BGD Bangladesh High 2019 0.9 0.4 0.0 - 1.3

Source: Development Initiatives based on data from UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Index for Risk Management (INFORM) and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

Notes: The 20 countries are selected based on the size of displaced populations hosted in 2020. 'Displaced population' includes refugees and people in refugee-like situations, internally displaced persons (IDPs), asylum seekers and other displaced populations of concern to UNHCR. Other displaced populations of concern to UNHCR include Venezuelans displaced abroad. IDP figures refer to those forcibly displaced by conflict, and exclude those internally displaced due to climate or natural disaster. Data is organised according to UNHCR's definitions of country/territory of asylum. According to data provided by UNRWA, registered Palestine refugees are included as refugees for Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. UNHCR data represents 2020 mid-year figures, and UNRWA data for 2020 is based on internal estimation.

The numbers of displaced people worldwide grew for the ninth consecutive year in 2020, with many in enduring situations of displacement requiring long-term humanitarian assistance, as options for safe return home remain closed. However, the numbers displaced in 2020 may be even higher as the Covid-19 pandemic impeded data collection while fear of infection may have deterred some people from seeking emergency protection and shelter.[22]

  • In 2020, the total number of displaced people increased to 82.1 million, by 3.4% (2.7 million) from a total of 79.5 million in 2019.
  • Three fifths (58%, or 48.0 million people) of this total were people forcibly displaced internally; 32% were refugees (26.3 million); 5.1% were asylum seekers (4.2 million); and 4.4% (3.6 million) were Venezuelans displaced abroad.
  • Continuing the trend of recent years, the majority of displaced people were internally displaced, with around one third being refugees.
  • The overall rise in the number of people displaced in 2020 was driven by an increase in those internally displaced, rising by 2.4 million (a 5.2% rise) from 2019. The number of refugees, asylum seekers and Venezuelans displaced abroad remained largely unchanged from the previous year.

Displaced people are often among the most vulnerable to shocks. They are consequently particularly at risk from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, in living conditions often lacking access to water, sanitation and health facilities – which increases risks of infection and of dying if the virus is contracted.[23] At the same time, the transient nature of displacement enables the spread of the virus as populations move.[24] Quantifying these increased risks is challenging, as data on Covid-19 cases will often not include displaced people.[25] The majority of displaced people live in countries at high risk from the impacts of Covid-19.

  • In 2020, more than half (52% or 42.9 million) of displaced people lived in countries assessed to be at high or very high risk of the impacts of Covid-19.
  • A further 39% (32.2 million) were living in countries assessed to be at medium risk.
  • Exposure to the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic is particularly stark for people displaced in sub-Saharan Africa, where 99% of the displaced population lives in countries assessed to be at high or very high risk from the impacts of Covid-19.

As in previous years, a small number of countries hosted the majority of all displaced people. Most countries with the largest populations of displaced people have experienced rises in the number they hosted in 2020.

  • In 2020, 10 countries hosted over half (54%, 44.4 million) of all displaced people, a similar proportion to 2019 (55%).
  • Among these ten countries, only two saw a notable decrease in the number of displaced people: in Colombia by 654,482 people (8.9% of the total displaced population in the country), and in DRC by 242,561 people (4.0%).[26]
  • The largest increases in displaced populations were seen in Ethiopia, as conflict in the Tigray region contributed to an increase of 683,799 (31%) from 2019, and in Afghanistan where the displaced population grew by almost a fifth (18.1%), a rise of 533,988 people, as a result of conflict and violence.

Sub-Sharan Africa again had the largest number of displaced people, as the trend seen in recent years of an increasing concentration of the global displaced population in this region continued in 2020.

  • The number of displaced people in sub-Saharan Africa continued to grow in absolute terms, rising by 2.8 million from 2019 to 28.9 million (a 11% increase) in 2020, and as a proportion of all those displaced globally, up from 33% in 2019 to 35% in 2020.
  • Driving this growth in sub-Saharan Africa was the increase of 2.6 million in the number of internally displaced people.
  • The displaced populations also grew notably as a proportion in South Asia, rising 9.1% to 7.2 million, and in North America, increasing 6.5% to 1.5 million.
  • Slight falls were seen in the size of the displaced populations in Latin America and the Caribbean, down 5.1% to 10.7 million, and in the Middle East and North of Sahara region, decreasing 2.8% to 21.3 million.

The protracted nature of many of the largest displacement crises is evident in the largely unchanging picture seen when analysing the countries of origin of refugees and asylum seekers over the past five years. Venezuela is, however, the one notable exception.

  • In 2020, Syria was the country from which the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers originated (6.7 million), followed by Afghanistan (3.0 million), with little change year-on-year in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from these countries over the period 2015 to 2020.
  • Since 2015, Venezuela has seen by far the fastest growth in numbers of refugees and asylum seekers produced, with numbers growing by a yearly average of 126%. However, in 2020 the pace of growth slowed to 6.6% (an increase of 59,004 from 2019). In 2020, a total of 946,812 refugees and asylum seekers were registered as originated from Venezuela.
  • Also since 2015, the numbers of refuges and asylum seekers have grown significantly from South Sudan, almost tripling to 2.3 million (up 192%), and from Myanmar, almost doubling to 1.0 million (up 99%).

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Notes

  • 1

    People living in poverty are defined as living on less than $3.20 a day (2011 PPP); people living in extreme poverty are defined as living on less than $1.90 a day (2011 PPP). PPPs are constructed by comparing the cost of a common basket of goods in different countries.

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  • 2

    Development Initiatives defines countries experiencing protracted crisis as countries with at least five consecutive years of UN-coordinated humanitarian or refugee response plans as of the year of analysis. Protracted crises often involve more than one crisis happening at once (such as conflict, displacement and natural disasters). They combine acute and long-term needs, requiring strategic support to meet immediate needs and to address structural causes and reduce vulnerabilities to new shocks.

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  • 3

    Development Initiatives defines countries experiencing protracted crisis as countries with at least five consecutive years of UN-coordinated humanitarian or refugee response plans as of the year of analysis. Protracted crises often involve more than one crisis happening at once (such as conflict, displacement and natural disasters). They combine acute and long-term needs, requiring strategic support to meet immediate needs and to address structural causes and reduce vulnerabilities to new shocks.

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