The world faces a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions — and one that doesn’t involve the coronavirus. Over the last decade, global displacement of people from their homes due to war or political instability has grown from about 44 million to more than 71 million, which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says far surpasses the estimated 60 million people displaced by World War II.
Much of that sudden growth is the result of the horrific Syrian civil war, which has sent 6.7 million people — roughly the population of Washington state — fleeing their homes, many of them squatting in the neighboring nations of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. And that doesn’t include most of the 800,000 people who fled Idlib Province in recent months as Turkish and Syrian forces (with Russian help) waged war in northern Syria.
But it is not just Syria. Millions of people have also fled violence and instability in northern and sub-Saharan Africa, including 2.3 million people uprooted in civil-war-torn South Sudan alone. Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been mired in war for a generation, accounts for another 2.7 million displaced people.
Anti-Muslim policies in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar have uprooted more than 1 million Rohingya, mostly from Rakhine state, many of them now living in squalor in neighboring Bangladesh. Corruption, economic hardship (propelled in part by climate change) and deadly gang activity in Central America have sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. The economic meltdown and political crisis in Venezuela dating back to Hugo Chavez’s rise to power in 1999 have similarly pushed an estimated 4 million people out of the country.