Displaced: faces of some of the worlds 63 million people fleeing disaster


War, weather, climate change and terrorism have made millions homeless. UN photographer Muse Mohammed has documented how they have coped

Civil war. Climate change. Starvation. Natural disaster. Terrorism. The causes are many, the results are grimly familiar for tens of millions of people displaced from their homes around the world and forced to find shelter and food often thousands of miles away, in unfamiliar, sometimes unwelcoming regions. Such is the prospect faced by communities around the globe in 2017, as this series of remarkable photographs for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the United Nations agency by its staff photographer, Muse Mohammed.

Data collected by the UN reveal that there are 65.3 million displaced people worldwide, matching the population of the UK. Most are displaced within their countrys borders and 21.3 million fled as refugees.

The UN said in a major report that wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes some to locations within their own countries, others across borders to communities that may reject them than at any time since its records began. They are fleeing within and from countries as far apart as Papua New Guinea, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Cambodia. Many are children: in 2015, children made up 51% of the worlds refugees. Many were separated from their parents or travelling alone.

The average length of displacement is just over 10 years and for those displaced by conflict, the figure rises to 17 years. Whether they build makeshift homes or find themselves living with host communities, these living arrangements almost never serve as a long-term solution and were never meant to do so. The UN report noted that, on average, 24 people were forced to flee during each minute in 2015. This figure is four times more than that of decade earlier, when six people fled during every 60 seconds.

Millions of men, women and children have been uprooted and forced to move as the world faces an unprecedented series of simultaneous, complex and protracted crises along an arc of instability extending from the western bulge of Africa to the Himalayas, the report made clear.

Nowhere has this been felt as acutely as in the Mediterranean, said the IOMs director general, William Lacy Swing. Last week the IOM recorded, on 23 December, the years 5,000th migrant death by drowning in the Mediterranean.

Papua New Guinea

Many islanders suffer from hunger and a lack of clean water as a result of the climatic effects of the El Nio weather system. In 2017, the harvest is not expected to yield crops until the end of the year, and limited access to clean drinking water, irrigation and storage facilities, as well as hazards such as droughts, floods and landslides, are expected to disrupt the communitys recovery efforts. The Pacific nation is also peppered by dozens of small-scale, local conflicts over land ownership, tribal differences and compensation, all adding to a sense of vulnerability. Despite these challenges, Mike and Alice (main image, top) built themselves a house in Killerton several years ago. They were displaced when a flood tore through their village in 2007. Before the waters could reach them, Mike and a few villagers managed to saw his home in half and move it out of the path before repairing it again. They continue to live in the same house.

A woman and her child pose in front of their house made of cardboard in the Farm Centre Internally Displaced Persons camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Photograph: Muse Mohammed/IOM


In the Lake Chad basin area of northern Nigeria, 3.6 million people are directly affected by the insurgency by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram. Attacks and regional insecurity have displaced 2.6 million, both internally and into neighbouring countries. An additional 1 million refugees have been able to return home since August 2015. But many remain displaced, living in camps and host communities across the region. Borno State hosts the most internally displaced persons (IDPs), along with Adamawa and Yobe; more than half of them are children. The need for food is increasing along with non-food items, such as blankets. A woman and her child (above) pose in front of their house made of cardboard in the Farm Centre IDP camp in Maiduguri. Constructed using any materials available, the shelter will be unable to withstand the rainy season. Like many IDPs, this family fled their village in north-east Nigeria because of Boko Haram attacks.

Having fled the war in Syria, Zonan and Mustaphas family live in a former stable for horses which they share with other families in Salinufra, Turkey. Photograph: Muse Mohammed/IOM


Five years into the civil war in Syria more than 13.5 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance inside the country, including 6.5 million internally displaced, the biggest IDP population in the world. In addition, 4.2 million Syrians have taken refuge in the five neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The pace of displacement has remained relentless, despite various attempts at ceasefires. Well over 1.2 million people have been displaced so far this year, many for the second or third time. According to recent UN figures, 2.7 million Syrian refugees have sought safety in Turkey. Among them are Zonan and Mustaphas family who live in a former stable in Salinufra, Turkey (above). Each family in the stable has a single stall intended for one horse with no heating, water, or electricity. Originally from Kobane over the border, the families fled to escape the war in Syria. They have lived in the stable for six months.

Tin and Naing win live on a small boat which they travel throughout the Delta region in Myanmar. Photograph: Muse Mohammed/IOM


While tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring countries to escape military operations that have left many dead, there are many other long-standing and complex reasons for migration. Limited livelihoods and poor socio-economic conditions have forced many to leave, with better wages and a demand for less skilled labourers in neighbouring countries acting as pull-factors. Heavy monsoon rains in June, July and August of 2015, followed by cyclone Komen, caused extensive floods and landslides in several parts of Myanmar, affecting 1.6 million people, with 333,000 displaced. Tin and Naing Win (above) live on a small boat in the delta region. The former gardeners once had a home on land but it was destroyed when a cyclone ravaged the area in 2008. Since then, they have not been able to afford to rebuild their home so they live on a small boat from which they sell fish paste to make a living.

Roumkun lives with her daughter and grandchildren in a shelter built by her son in 2005 along an uncompleted railway in Poipet, Cambodia. Photograph: Muse Mohammed/IOM


Porous borders, poverty and its geographic location make Cambodia a major point of origin, destination and transit for irregular migrants. People trafficking is still a huge concern in the country and surrounding region. Recent trends have shown that more and more Cambodian men are abused and exploited in the regional fishing industry, having been trafficked through neighbouring countries and ending up stranded further abroad. Roumkun (above) lives with her daughter and grandchildren in a shelter built by her son in 2005 along an uncompleted railway in Poipet. They came from a small village hoping to travel to Thailand but became trapped near the border while trying to cross. Now they rely on money sent by her children who made it successfully to Thailand. With the government planning to complete the railroad and evict the informal houses, Roumkun is not sure of her future, or of that of her children and grandchildren.

Peter Lall lives in a destroyed building in Abyei, a contested territory between Sudan and South Sudan. Photograph: Muse Mohammed/IOM

South Sudan

Ever since a struggle between political rivals plunged South Sudan into conflict in 2013, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people have died and more than 3 million have fled. More than 200,000 people are sheltering in UN protection sites, while others have fled to remote areas or stayed in informal settlements. Having left their homes with few belongings, displaced people rely on aid agencies. The World Food Programme estimates that 4.6 million people will face severe hunger this year. Peter Lall above lives in a destroyed building in Abyei next to the site where his father died during an attack on the town. Sarah Nyan Gan Makuei (below) fled from a UN protection site to Malakal following fighting in the camp. Her disability meant she was forced to stay behind when her husband took their six children to Juba.

Sarah Nyan Gan Makuei, who fled from a UN protection site in South Sudan. Photograph: Muse Mohammed/IOM

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/31/far-from-home-60-million-people-displaced-un-war-climate-change-terrorism