Internally Displaced Persons

They do no fall under the current legal definition of a refugee but they are often referred to as refugees. They are a group of persons forced to leave their homes to avoid the effect of armed conflicts, violent situations, human rights violations or human-made disasters and have not crossed an international border. Their own government often persecutes them and there is no international organization to specifically help them so their situation could be worst. Higher number of Internally displaced persons is found in Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, The DRC and Azerbaijan with over one million each.

Estimated 5 million Internally displaced persons in 11 countries received no assistance from any government. In 2008, there were 40 million refugees and about 24.5 million are internally displaced persons in about 52 countries in estimate and between 70% – 80% of them are women and children. In 2010, the estimated number was 27.5 million people who were internally displaced from conflict or violence and over 42 million fled their home areas due to natural disasters. This issue is becoming a major concern for UNHCR.

UNHCR provided support in exceptional circumstances and beyond such as the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the earthquake in 2005 and floods in 2010 in Pakistan and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and extended help in governments to develop rules and policies for Internally Displaced Persons to live in safety and dignity. The population continues to fluctuate so it is difficult to get an actual figure. In Iraq, there are about 2 million internally displaced Iraqis and they have no more homes to return to so they live in slums with no help from their government.

Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) introduced the cluster approach six years ago for ensuring more effective response from international agencies and maximize their resources in providing support in cases of humanitarian emergencies where each member agency is accountable. These people need food, emergency shelters and non-food items, security and protection, health care, water, sanitation to prevent the spread of diseases and getting children back to school. Majority of them are women and children that are vulnerable and open to abuse and human rights violations especially by armed forces during conflicts and there are thousands of rape victims in some war-torn countries that increased the rate of HIV infection. This difficult situation needs immediate action and worldwide support to combat this extreme violence and robbing of people’s dignities. These people also need help in returning to their home place and reconstructions.

While international agencies face the task of helping Internally displaced people, we can extend our support through volunteering and giving donations when it’s impossible to reach out to them or provide awareness to other people regarding these issue. The need is also high in a more thorough reconstruction to stabilize their government after conflicts to help forward their return. They have the right to live a peaceful life and away from war and extreme aggression, abuse and human rights violation.

Mary Jone Causing Buchholtz
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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