Largest internal displacements in 2018

Largest internal displacements in 2018

Increasing numbers of people are being displaced within their own countries due to armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations.

IDPs assisted by UNHCR end 2018 map

An estimated 41.3 million people were internally displaced due to armed conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations at the end of 2018, according to estimates from the internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). This is an increase on the 40.0 million reported in 2017. The small declines of the previous years were reversed and the internally displaced population in 2018 was the largest ever reported by IDMC.

IDPs of concern to UNHCR (includes people in an IDP-like situation) (2009-2018)

IDPs of concern to UNHCR includes people in idp like situation 2009 2018

Since the inter-agency cluster approach was introduced in January 2006, IDP statistics have been collected jointly by UNHCR and cluster members.46 The total reported by UNHCR offices stood at 41.4 million at the end of 2018, including those in IDP-like situations, compared with 39.1 million at the end of 2017. in 2018, 31 UNHCR operations reported an IDP population, compared with 32 the previous year and 29 in 2016.

Ten largest IDP populations | end-2017 to end-2018

Ten largest IDP populations end 2017 to end 2018

COLOMBIA - 7.8 million IDPs

As has been the case since 2015, Colombia continued to report the highest number of internally displaced people with 7,816,500 at the end of 2018 according to Government statistics [figure 15].47 During 2018, 118,200 new displacements were reported, with no returns or other decreases reported. The regions most impacted by mass displacements included Colombia’s north-eastern border with Venezuela, the southern border with Ecuador, the Pacific coast bordering Panama, and the northwest, comprising the departments of Norte de Santander, Nariño, Antioquia and Choco.

SYRIA - 6.2 million IDPs

Syria remained the country with the second highest level of internal displacement. During 2018, 256,700 new displacements were reported with the total displaced population reaching 6,183,900.

As the Syria crisis entered its eighth year, continued. hostilities in eastern Ghouta and Afrin led to large- scale displacement to Rural Damascus and northern Syria. escalated tensions in southern Syria forced people to flee toward the border with Jordan and the Golan area to the west. Sporadic artillery shelling and infighting among non-State armed groups in north- western Syria and south-eastern Deir-ez-Zor pushed successive waves of new displacement into Idlib Governorate, exacerbating existing pressures.51 while there were displacements in many regions of the country, more than half of the new displacements were recorded in Idlib Governorate.


The IDP population in DRC continued to increase, rising from 4,351,400 at the end of 2017 to 4,516,900 at the end of 2018. There were 322,000 reported new displacements in 2018 with South Kivu, north Kivu, Tanganyika and Kasai provinces being the most affected. Active conflicts and political uncertainties exacerbated by the ongoing electoral process continued to drive significant displacement. Nevertheless, improved security across some territories in Tanganyika facilitated some spontaneous returns.

SOMALIA - 2.68 million IDPs

Somalia experienced a significant increase in internal displacement with 602,700 new displacements during 2018. That brought the total displaced population to about 2,648,000, the fourth largest IDP population and an increase of 25 per cent over the course of 2018. The largest displaced population was concentrated in south-central Somalia, while the majority of newly displaced people were living in Somaliland by the end of 2018. Armed conflict and food insecurity continued to spur large-scale displacement, largely toward urban areas, where approximately 80 per cent of Somali IDPs remained in 2018. even where violence had ceased, many IDPs were reluctant to return due to fear of reprisal and limited availability of social services and livelihood opportunities. Sexual and gender-based violence, child recruitment, and attacks on civilian areas and infrastructure remained pervasive features of the humanitarian crisis as active conflict exacerbated existing risks.

ETHIOPIA - 2.62 million IDPs

In Ethiopia there was a dramatic increase in the internally displaced population, which more than doubled from 1,078,400 at the beginning of 2018 to 2,615,800 at the end.55 The increase is accounted for by more than 1.5 million new displacements, mainly attributed to the conflict in the west Guji and Gedeo zones along the Southern nations, nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) and Oromia Region border with the Somali Region. Although localized, small- scale displacements have always existed in the country due to community-level clashes over pasture and water rights along regional boundaries, large- scale intercommunal violence throughout 2018 resulted in massive displacement, with communities living along disputed boundaries most affected.

NIGERIA - 2.17 million IDPs

The internally displaced population also increased in Nigeria. At the end of 2018 there were 2,167,900 people displaced in the country, an increase of 27 per cent during the year. internal movements included both 581,700 new displacements and 176,200 returns. Borno State saw the highest level of new displacement with 195,000 but also the highest levels of returning IDPs (80,100). Although regional military forces made gains against the Boko Haram insurgency in 2018 and managed to temporarily improve the security situation in certain areas of the Lake Chad Basin, conflict in north-eastern Nigeria has been continuing for more than a decade and showed little sign of abating, with attacks by non-State armed groups throughout 2018 driving further displacement.

YEMEN - 2.14 million IDPs

There were 2,144,700 internally displaced people in Yemen at the end of 2018. while this was a relatively small overall increase over the year, it masked a high level of movement, with 264,300 newly displaced and 133,600 returning to their localities of origin, often to areas still affected by conflict and with continuing humanitarian needs and limited humanitarian access. while many regions of Yemen were affected by displacement, Taizz and Al Hudaydah Governorate witnessed the highest level of new displacement, with the largest IDP population overall reported in Taizz Governorate. Approximately 60 percent of the displaced population had been displaced since the start of escalations.

AFGHANISTAN - 2.1 million IDPs

The internally displaced population in Afghanistan stood at 2.1 million at the end of 2018 compared with 1.8 million at the end of 2017. There were new displacements and returns throughout the year, often occurring simultaneously in the same province. while the IDP population in Ghazni Province increased slightly from 57,800 to 62,400, there were 37,000 new internal displacements and 33,200 returns. The province with the largest IDP population was Nangarhar with 279,700 people, followed by Helmand. with almost two thirds of the population living in areas directly affected by conflict, population movement has become a permanent feature. A convergence of factors arising from escalating violence, forced displacement, loss of essential livelihoods, and limited access to basic services exacerbated chronic vulnerabilities related to poverty, food insecurity and unemployment.

SOUTH SUDAN - 1.9 million IDPs

in South Sudan the number of IDPs remained high, around 1.9 million, although decreasing slightly from 1,904,000 to 1,878,200 during the year. The majority of the internally displaced population was concentrated in the Greater Upper Nile states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile. The decreases in the IDP population were due mainly to secondary movements to neighbouring countries, especially Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia, rather than returns. while South Sudan’s recently revitalized peace process offers new opportunities amid de-escalating tensions, the numbers of internally displaced have continued to remain high with five years of conflict having driven many families to flee on multiple occasions.

SUDAN - 1.99 million IDPs

At the end of 2018, the internally displaced population in Sudan stood at 1,864,200, a decrease from the 1,997,000 at the start of the year. The vast majority of IDPs were in Darfur (88 per cent) and Kordofan (9 per cent). Some have been living in protracted displacement for over a decade, while others were recently displaced amid continued conflict. Segments of this population made spontaneous returns to their areas of origin, but sporadic and localized clashes in Darfur’s Jebel Marra area continued to drive displacement in 2018.

IRAQ - 1.8 million IDPs

The number of IDPs in Iraq declined over 2018, decreasing from 2.6 million at the start of 2018 to 1.8 million at the end. There were close to 1 million returns during the year and 150,200 new displacements. Ninewa Province, which includes the city of Mosul, maintained the largest IDP population at 576,000, despite 437,000 returns during the year. Although the safe, voluntary and informed return of displaced people remained an overarching priority, it became increasingly clear that a significant majority of current IDPs may not return to their area of origin.58 in the aftermath of the Government of Iraq’s conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group, protection remained a crucial humanitarian priority.

UKRAINE - 1.5 million IDPs

According to official statistics, 1.5 million people were registered as internally displaced with the Ukrainian authorities. Of these, the United nations estimated that 800,000 resided permanently in Government- controlled areas, while others moved frequently across the “contact line” or registered as IDPs to maintain access to their pensions. Most of those displaced had been living in displacement since the peak of hostilities in 2014, unable to return home in the absence of a sustained peace.

CAMEROON - 668,500 IDPs

Cameroon experienced a trebling of its internally displaced population from 221,700 at the start of 2018 to 668,500 at the end, with over half a million new displacements. while the majority of IDPs continued to flee violence from the Southwest and northwest regions, the incidence of internal displacement in the Far north slowed gradually amid increasing numbers of returns to the region.65 People in the Far north were especially vulnerable due to loss of property, limited access to services, and general mistrust and stigmatization by community members on suspicion of collaboration and affiliation with Boko Haram.

Other countries with significant IDPs populations reported at the end of 2018 included:

  • Central African Republic (641,000)
  • Azerbaijan (620,400)
  • Myanmar (370,300)
  • Georgia (282,400)

Over the course of 2018, about 5.4 million people were forced to move within their countries due to conflict and violence, according to data reported by UNHCR offices. [figure 16]. This is a significant reduction compared with 2017 (8.5 million) and similar to 2016 (4.9 million).


The dramatic increase of over 1.5 million internally displaced people in Ethiopia was mainly the result of inter-communal violence in various pockets of the country over territory, pasture and water rights in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas along regional boundaries.

New IDP displacements and returns (2009-2018)

New IDP displacements and returns 2009 2018

Other countries with high levels of new internal displacement included:

  • Somalia (602,700)
  • Nigeria (581,700)
  • Cameroon (514,500)
  • Afghanistan (343,300)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (322,000)
  • Central African Republic (266,400)
  • Yemen (264,300)
  • Syria (256,700)
  • the Philippines (212,600)
  • Iraq (150,200)
  • Colombia (118,100)
  • Mali (82,100)
  • Niger (51,800)
  • Burkina Faso (44,700)
  • Libya (33,200)
  • Congo (30,200)

IDPs returns

As in previous years, Iraq continued to have the highest number of returns in 2018 with close to 1 million people (945,000) returning to their localities of origin. This was followed by the Philippines with 445,700 returns, the vast majority of which were to locations on the island of Mindanao. CAR also saw 306,200 returns, followed by Nigeria (176,200), Yemen (133,600), Pakistan (83,500), Afghanistan (73,500), Cameroon (67,700) and Libya (43,700).


IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons © MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti [CC BY-SA 2.0 (]

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