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Faith Nyasuguta

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide last year was equivalent to the population of London. 

The UNHCR’s latest annual assessment indicated a sharp increase in the number of forcibly displaced individuals during 2023, pushing the total to a record high of more than 117 million. This surge was primarily driven by ongoing conflicts, notably in Ukraine and Sudan, which show little sign of resolution.

In 2023 alone, 8.8 million people were forced to flee their homes, nearly matching the population of the UK capital. This significant increase set a new record, surpassing the previous year’s figure, and marked the twelfth consecutive year of rising displacement numbers. Currently, 1.5% of the world’s population is forcibly displaced, nearly double the proportion from a decade ago.


The UNHCR’s figures include refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and others requiring international protection. The agency warned that the total continued to rise in the first four months of 2024, likely exceeding 120 million, more than twice the population of Italy.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, emphasized the severe human suffering behind these stark statistics. He called for urgent international action to address the root causes of forced displacement, stressing that the rising numbers should galvanize global efforts to find solutions. Grandi highlighted that a significant portion of the displaced population is hosted by some of the world’s poorest countries, such as Chad and Sudan.

Meanwhile, the United States emerged as the largest recipient of new asylum applications, with 1.2 million requests. Germany followed with 329,000 applications, reflecting the significant political debate surrounding migration in the country and the recent electoral success of far-right parties in Europe.

The UNHCR report also revealed that children are disproportionately affected by forced displacement. Minors constitute 40% of all forcibly displaced people, despite making up only 30% of the global population. This highlights the particularly vulnerable position of children in conflict and displacement situations.

During 2023, the global refugee population increased by 7%, reaching 43.4 million. This rise was driven by conflicts in Gaza, contributing to 6 million Palestinian refugees, and in Sudan, where 10.8 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of the year. The situation in Sudan continues to worsen, with the number of displaced individuals increasing daily.


Grandi’s call to action highlights the need for comprehensive international cooperation to address the complex causes of forced displacement and to provide effective protection and support for those affected. The continued rise in displacement figures is a pressing humanitarian issue that demands immediate and sustained global attention.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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