Record high number of people displaced by war in first half of 2014: UN report

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UNITED NATIONS: War across large swathes of the Middle East and Africa in the first six months of 2014 forcibly displaced some 5.5 million people, signaling yet another record, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters here Wednesday, adding that Syria is largest source of refugees in the world.

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Dujarric, at a daily news briefing here, quoted the new Mid- Year Trends 2014 Report of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) by saying that of the 5.5 million people who were newly displaced, 1.4 million fled across international borders becoming refugees, while the rest were displaced within their own countries also known as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

That said, the new data bring the number of people being helped by UNHCR to 46.3 million as of mid-2014 — some 3.4 million more than at the end of 2013 and a new record high.

“In 2014, we have seen the number of people under our care grow to unprecedented levels,” Antonio Guterres, head of UNHCR, said in a statement. “As long as the international community continues to fail to find political solutions to existing conflicts and to prevent new ones from starting, we will continue to have to deal with the dramatic humanitarian consequences.”

“The economic, social and human cost of caring for refugees and the internally displaced is being borne mostly by poor communities, those who are least able to afford it,” Guterres said, adding that enhanced international solidarity is a must to avoid the risk of more and more vulnerable people being left without proper support.

Among the report’s main findings are that Syrians, for the first time, have become the largest refugee population under UNHCR ‘s mandate, overtaking Afghans, who had held that position for more than three decades, Dujarric said.

As of June 2014, there were three million Syrian refugees, accounting for 23 percent of all refugees helped by UNHCR worldwide.

Despite dropping to the second place, the 2.7 million Afghan refugees worldwide remained the largest protracted refugee population under UNHCR care. Following that, the leading countries of origin of refugees are Somalia (1.1 million), Sudan (670,000), South Sudan (509,000), the Democratic Republic of Congo (493,000), Myanmar (480,000) and Iraq (426,000).

Pakistan, which hosts 1.6 million Afghan refugees, remains the biggest host country in absolute terms. Other countries with large refugee populations are Lebanon (1.1 million), Iran (982,000), Turkey (824,000), Jordan (737,000), Ethiopia (588,000), Kenya (537,000) and Chad (455,000).

Relative to the sizes of their populations, Lebanon and Jordan host the largest number of refugees, while relative to the sizes of their economies the burdens carried by Ethiopia and Pakistan are greatest.

UNHCR’s Mid-Year Trends 2014 report is based on data from governments and the organization’s worldwide offices. It does not show total forced displacement globally. Those figures are presented in June each year in UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report, which as of the end of 2013 showed that 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide. PNA

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