The number of refugees and displaced people around the world has surpassed 50 million people for the first time since the Second World War, and half of them are children, according to figures released on Friday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
There was a staggering increase of 6.6 million refugees and displaced people in 2013 from the 2012 numbers, which can largely be attributed to the ongoing war in Syria. In Syria, 6.5 million people, or more than 40 percent of the population, is now displaced, and 2.5 million Syrians have escaped the crisis. As the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood reports, if the world’s 51.2 million forcibly displaced people were their own country, it would be the 24th most populous in the world, more than the populations of South Africa, Spain, or South Korea.
The UNHCR annual Global Trend report defines three different groups: refugees (16.7 million), asylum seekers (1.2 million), and internally displaced people (33.3 million, which is a record number.) Syria has the highest number of asylum seekers at 64,300, followed by those from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar, and Germany is the largest recipient of asylum seekers as a whole.
The international humanitarian aid community is feeling the strain of millions more fleeing crises, and those forced to leave their homes due to climate change, population growth, and food insecurity. The increased need for assistance means the U.N.’s world food program has had to reduce rations at some refugee camps, reports Sherwood.