Today, there are more internally displaced people in the world than ever before; approximately 59.1 million people have been forced from their homes due to armed conflict, violence or human rights violations and disasters. Evidence indicates that more than half of internally displaced people are women and girls. Different social groups – women, girls, men, boys, older people, people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), people with disabilities and people from minority ethnic groups and marginalized groups – experience displacement internally differently. Displacement reinforces pre-existing discrimination and social and economic disadvantage. Displaced women and girls, in all their diversity, tend to face disproportionate challenges in accessing secure livelihoods, protection, health care and education. These challenges have been exacerbated by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, during which there has been a global increase in sexual violence and gender-based violence (GBV), including domestic violence. and conjugal (IPV), school drop-outs, forced marriages and early pregnancies.
Displaced women and girls and other vulnerable groups at particular risk in their countries need specific and targeted support. Their needs are rarely prioritized, mainly due to their status as internally displaced persons. The United Nations provides a descriptive definition of internally displaced persons, which does not give them any special legal status because internally displaced persons, being inside their country, retain all the rights and guarantees of citizens and other habitual residents. National authorities bear the primary responsibility for preventing forced displacement and protecting internally displaced persons. Displacement due to conflict can be sensitive, particularly in cases where the government has failed to protect displaced people or has perpetuated violence.
In 2021, Asia and the Pacific accounted for 53.3% of the global total of internally displaced people, most of whom were displaced by disasters triggered by extreme climate and weather conditions. The region is highly vulnerable to large-scale destructive disasters. Millions of people are affected by hazards such as earthquakes, tropical storms, floods, landslides, tsunamis, drought and volcanic eruptions. It is estimated that 80% of those displaced by climate change are women. Weather hazards, such as cyclones and floods, account for more than 90% of total evacuations in the Asia-Pacific region, while conflicts and civil unrest, such as in Afghanistan, have caused a spike in internal displacement.
Many internally displaced people travel to remote places where humanitarian aid is difficult to provide and as a result they are among the most vulnerable people in the world. They face inconceivable humanitarian hardship, such as physical assaults, sexual assaults, kidnappings and deprivation of adequate housing, food and health services. They may remain displaced for a long time before they can settle permanently (either by returning home or settling in their new host community). It is estimated that periods of displacement can last five years or more.
There is a great need for collaboration between international, regional and local organizations, including local governments, to improve the situation of internally displaced persons and prevent a further deterioration of their rights and the perpetuation of inequalities during their journey. To understand and better respond to the needs of vulnerable groups, it is essential to expand data collection on IDPs based on sex- and age-disaggregated data and to conduct gender-focused analyzes and assessments. It is essential to know the impact of displacement over a long and a short period. This booklet provides practical advice on including displaced populations in humanitarian programming and coordination by highlighting recent good practices in the Asia-Pacific region.
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.