The pictures in the media of refugees, whether fleeing in boats, or trying to cross into other countries, or stuck in camps, are striking. But why are people fleeing? What leads them to take such huge risks with their own lives and those of their families?
The Syrian conflict is responsible for the largest increase in global refugees, as conflict has overcome the country since fighting began in 2011. More than 4.8 million refugees have fled, mostly to neighboring countries, hundreds of thousands to Europe, and 6.6 million people are displaced inside Syria.
But the Syrian conflict isn’t the only issue. Conflict, violence, and insecurity have also been the main drivers of displacement in sub-Saharan Africa, which is host to the largest number of refugees in the world – 4 million people, or more than the population of Connecticut.
Somalia is the largest source of refugees from Africa, and the third largest source of refugees in the world. The largest population of Somali refugees is in neighboring Kenya, over 400,000 as of February 2016, many in Dadaab. Conflict in South Sudan since December 2013 has led to a dire overall humanitarian situation. There are 669,241 South Sudanese refugees, mostly in neighboring Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya as of March 2016.
Many countries in Africa are also facing the effects of extreme climate through El Niño. Across large swathes of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Madagascar, the current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 years. As of early February, at least 2.5 million people are in crisis and need urgent humanitarian assistance and that number is expected to increase. Over the coming year, humanitarian partners should prepare themselves for food insecurity levels and food insecure population numbers in southern Africa to be at their highest levels since the 2002- 2003 food crisis.
Conflict, climate, and poverty mean that millions are on the move in Africa. Ensuring the most vulnerable people on the planet have a safe haven and a productive future is one of the biggest development challenges of our times.