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Internally Displaced People

Who We Help

On the Run in Their Own Land

Internally displaced persons, or IDPs, are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries. Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight. As citizens, they retain all of their rights and protection under both human rights and international humanitarian law.

UNHCR´s original mandate does not specifically cover IDPs, but because of the agency´s expertise on displacement, it has for many years been protecting and assisting millions of them, more recently through the "cluster approach." Under this, UNHCR has the lead role in overseeing the protection and shelter needs of IDPs as well as coordination and management of camps.

At the end of 2011, there were an estimated 26.4 million internally displaced people around the world, down slightly on the year before. UNHCR was helping about 15.5 million of the IDPs in 26 countries. These included the three countries with the largest IDP populations – Colombia, Iraq and South Sudan.

Millions of other civilians who have been made homeless by natural disasters are also considered as IDPs. In 2011, some 14.9 million people became internally displaced due to natural disasters, the great majority of them across Asia. UNHCR shares responsibility to protect this group with other humanitarian agencies and has been involved in recent crises such as 2008’s Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, the Pakistan floods in 2010 and the Haiti earthquake the same year.




Refworld Publications and News

Read more about internally displaced persons in Refworld.

IDPs in Figures

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (External link)

Useful Links

More useful information on IDPs.