5.1 Trends in Numbers of People Affected
At the end of 1998 there were 21.5 million people of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), including refugees, IDPs, and returnees.2 The number of refugees was estimated to be approximately 12 million, the majority of whom were in Africa and Asia. The total number of refugees worldwide has decreased since 1992. Between 1997 and 1999 there were relatively large decreases in the numbers of refugees in Africa (due to repatriation programmes to countries such as Liberia) and Europe (repatriation to the former Yugoslavia, for example Bosnia). A small decrease has also occurred in Asia, where some of the refugees in Pakistan continue to return to Afghanistan. Figure 5.1 illustrates the trend in the numbers of refugees (both assisted and unassisted) over the past 32 years, based on data provided by UNHCR.2
The term “IDP” is loose and ill defined,3 and it is difficult to estimate the global number of IDPs. Government denial, or incapacity to recognize a domestic IDP problem, and the lack of clear institutional responsibility for the plight of IDPs4 compound the problem. Returnees may also confuse calculations and definitions (for example in Burundi), and government-organized resettlement programmes that move IDPs from insecure to safer areas temporarily or permanently (for example in Uganda) may confuse the issue further. In addition, in a country such as Somalia, which has a tradition of high population mobility, the fluidity of the situation makes estimates uncertain.
The United States Committee for Refugees (USCR) has estimated that there were more than 20 million IDPs worldwide at the end of 1998. About 8-9 million were in Africa, 5-7 million in Europe (former Yugoslavia and Turkey), and 1.3 million in South America (Colombia). It is estimated that there were more than 100,000 people displaced in 27 different countries, and more than a half million were displaced in 13 countries. In one nation, Sudan, an estimated 4 million people are currently displaced after 15 years of civil war.5
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