More people have been internally displaced in East Africa this year than in any region, new figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center show.
The most affected country has been Ethiopia, where 1.4 million people were uprooted by violence between January and June – about 200,000 more than in Syria – as intense fighting has broken out in country’s Southern regions.
The number of new displacements increased sharply from last year when just 213,000 people were reported displaced through June.
Neighboring Somalia and South Sudan have also seen significant numbers of internal displacement this year due to violence as the civil war continues to rage on in those countries.
Natural disasters have contributed to internal displacement in the region as well. Nearly a million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya were displaced by droughts and unprecedented flooding believed to have been exacerbated by the Indian El Nino weather phenomenon.
Alexandra Bilak, the director of IDMC, said on Wednesday that the early effects of climate change are increasingly becoming a factor leading to displacements.
“Vulnerable communities in disaster-prone regions or in areas experiencing the effects of climate change are increasingly at risk and disproportionately impacted by internal displacement,” she said.
While millions remain internally displaced in East Africa, the region has also become a significant source of migrants and refugees who have flown into Libya in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
With the support of European countries like Italy, Libyan officials have been detaining migrants en masse and holding them in centers with poor living conditions. The situation there has been described by the United Nations as a “humanitarian crisis.”
Additionally, more than 1,000 migrants have drowned to death in the Mediterranean Sea attempting to cross it from Libya this year.
Bilak said that addressing the root causes of displacements and not just humanitarian responses to them is key to addressing the issue.
“In addition to improving humanitarian responses to these crises, more investment must be made at the national and international level to reduce poverty and inequality, build peace and address the effects of climate change,” she said.