At last, the world has woken up to one of the biggest challenges of our age. We are witnessing massive movements of people on an unprecedented scale. And while the current focus on migrants and refugees is welcome, it risks obscuring an equally worrying trend of people displaced within their own countries.
Just look at the numbers. So far this year, more than half a million people have journeyed to Europe's doorstep seeking asylum. 13 million people are officially recognized as refugees who are living in camps dotted around the world. But as shocking as these figures are, they pale in comparison to the number of people who are internally displaced.
Internally displaced persons (known as IDPs) include a staggering 59 million people -people who have to flee their homes and communities but remain within their own country, sometimes in official camps, but often living on the streets or informal settlements. Some people are displaced by conflict, some by natural disasters. Some flee persecution others seek economic opportunity. Often it's a combination of factors that finally forces people to leave behind all that is familiar in the hope of a better, safer, life elsewhere. And they need our help as much, if not more, than those who come knocking at rich countries' doors.
I should know. As a refugee from Sierra Leone's civil war in the 1980s, I was forced to leave first my home–living as an IDP for six years–and eventually my country in search of stability.