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In 2021, Africa witnessed the most new internal displacements as conflict and violence flared in several countries across the continent. Around 30 million internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum-seekers live in Africa, representing almost one-third of the world’s refugee population.
Millions of new displacements were recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Nigeria, triggered by increasing insecurity and human rights violations.
Across Africa, UNHCR works to ensure that the displaced have access to services such as education and health care. We also safeguard access to protection and asylum, respond with life-saving assistance and work to reduce and prevent statelessness.
Seeking durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons remains a critical priority for UNHCR, many of them facing additional challenges due to COVID-19 and the effects of climate change.
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Central African Republic situation
The security and political situation in the Central African Republic has triggered massive forced displacement since December 2012. Almost 1.4 million people are forcibly displaced within and across its borders and face protection risks.
UNHCR works on addressing the needs of all affected populations and emphasizes peace-building efforts to encourage the reintegration of returnees.
Learn more about the Central African Republic situation here.
UNHCR's work in the region
In the East and Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region, millions of people have fled their homes due to conflict, climate-related events and political violence. By the end of 2021, the region hosted 4.9 million refugees and asylum seekers, as well as 12 million internally displaced people.
UNHCR collaborates with partners to promote the rights of forcibly displaced people and access to services and civil documentation. We support community structures in tackling child protection and gender-based violence, and promote refugees' and returnees' inclusion in national education plans.
In 2021, UNHCR provided cash assistance to over 1 million people, helping to pay for energy, shelter, hygiene, livelihoods and repatriation.
Southern Africa has long been prey to economic instability, conflict and food insecurity. Climate events and economic pressures from COVID-19 further complicate forced displacement in the region, and growing social inequalities challenge stability and democracy.
UNHCR has strengthened its emergency preparedness and response and is implementing innovative projects to reduce the impact of climate change. We advocate for reinforced asylum systems and legal protection frameworks, including child protection systems to support the 464,000 child refugees and asylum-seekers in the region.
UNHCR continues scaling up livelihoods, financial inclusion and self-reliance strategies to foster local integration and voluntary repatriation.
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DR Congo emergency
The humanitarian situation in the DRC is one of the most complex protection crises in the world. After decades of conflicts characterized by forced displacement and human rights violations, most Congolese live in poverty and face weak security, justice and social services.
UNHCR supports the Government and its partners in ensuring the inclusion of people of concern in national development plans, ensuring equal access to resources and opportunities and expanding access to durable solutions.
Learn more about the DR Congo emergency here.
In West and Central Africa, the needs of people displaced by conflicts and political instability are growing faster than the humanitarian response can expand. At the end of 2021, there were 10.7 million people of concern in the region – an increase of more than 1.1 million in a year.
UNHCR provides shelter, cash assistance and core relief items to people of concern. We also support refugees to start, continue or return to school, extending financial, material and technical support to improve access to education.
UNHCR’s efforts in 2023 will focus on better protection monitoring and responding to emergencies while seeking long-term solutions in partnership with development actors.
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Ethiopia Tigray emergency
The conflict in northern Ethiopia is complex, fluid and evolving. August 2022 saw the resumption of hostilities in the three northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar, leading to new displacement and restrictions on humanitarian movement, disrupting the delivery of protection and assistance.
UNHCR and its partners make significant efforts to scale up the protection response, with particular attention to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.
Learn more about the Ethiopia Tigray emergency here.
The African Union (AU) is one of UNHCR's most important partners and a leader in global efforts to resolve forced displacement, a significant challenge facing the continent. Founded in 2001, the Union brings together 55 member states that join forces to address major political, social and economic issues, including preventing and ending conflict and promoting pan-African development and integration through its ambitious Agenda 2063.
Further resources and reports
The Global Report presents the work carried out by UNHCR in 2021, highlighting the year's achievements and challenges faced in responding to multiple life-threatening crises and ever-growing humanitarian needs.
Global Appeal provides information about UNHCR’s plans for the coming year and the funding it needs to protect, assist and empower forcibly displaced and stateless people, and to help them find solutions to their situations.