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People displaced by war, weather, disasters reached record 55 million in 2020

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People displaced by war, weather, disasters reached record 55 million in 2020
A call for help is placed on the roof of a home in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017. Wednesday's report says natural disasters caused three times more displacements than conflict and violence in 2020. File Photo by Kris Grogan/U.S. Customs and Border Protection/UPI | License Photo

May 20 (UPI) -- According to a new analysis Thursday, people displaced in their homelands due to war, other violence and natural disasters reached a 10-year high in 2020, even with travel restrictions related to COVID-19.

The Global Report on Internal Displacement, published by the Norwegian Refugee Council Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, says there were about 41 million new displacements last year -- the greatest single-year figure of the past decade.

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It also says the number of people living in internal displacement also reached an all-time record, 55 million, in 2020 -- and that measures to curb COVID-19 "significantly impeded" humanitarian efforts worldwide. The pandemic, it says, also heightened internally displaced people's needs and vulnerabilities, while delaying the search for "durable solutions."

The report says natural disasters, a product mostly of climate change, caused three times more displacements than conflict and violence in 2020.

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Weather-related events, it says, caused 98% of all disaster displacement in 2020. Intense cyclones, monsoon rains and floods heavily affected densely populated areas in South and East Asia and the Pacific region. Those areas were often unprepared for the impact of such disasters, the GRID analysis says.

China, the Philippines and Bangladesh were areas with the most displacement. The data noted that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record and rainy seasons were prolonged across the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, forcing many to flee their homes.

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"The convergence of conflict and disasters led to many people being displaced for a second or even third time, increasing and prolonging their vulnerability," the report states.

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"Many of those who fled flooding in Yemen had already been uprooted at least once by conflict. Drought in Somalia drove people to flee from rural to urban areas where they are now at greater risk of eviction and attacks by armed groups."

The global cost of displacement last year reached nearly $21 billion. The costs were associated with housing, education, health and security needs and loss of income.

The GRID study notes the rising effect of climate change on the issue.

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"Major climate-related disasters have almost doubled in the last twenty years as greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb," it states.

"The COVID pandemic has been a wake-up call and this report is another reminder: Today, sound evidence and global partnership are more important than ever. Millions of people on the move in a changing climate need us to act in solidarity.

"Addressing internal displacement in a changing climate is a developmental endeavour that requires increased political will, more strategic financing and better collaboration between stakeholders working on disaster risk reduction, peacebuilding, sustainable development and climate action."

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