Far From Home: 5 Refugee & Migrant Crises to Watch in 2020

We live in a world where 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. War, genocide, starvation and economic crisis are forcing individuals to flee for their lives.

We want to share the “why” behind five of the top refugee and migrant crises of 2020. 

1. Venezuela

Venezuela is facing an extreme economic crisis that started a decade ago and rapidly became one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises in the last couple of years. 

“The scale of what is happening in Venezuela is considered to be the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today. Persons displaced from Venezuela represent more people than the combined number that have fled from South Sudan and Myanmar. The situation is dire — an estimated 60 percent of medical assistance has been lost, with recent indicators of maternal mortality at an increase of 65 percent. Mothers are dying unnecessarily without access to care,” said Martha Holley Newsome, Medical Teams International President and CEO.

Basic resources like food and medicine are nearly impossible to afford. Four-and-a-half million citizens have chosen to leave their home and their country to find affordable resources.

Stefanie holds her six-month-old baby outside her makeshift home in Colombia.

Living in a garbage dump on the outskirts of Barranquilla, Colombia, Stefanie – a new mother and single parent from Venezuela – is finding a way to help herself and her six-month-old baby stay alive.  Her home country lacks resources like affordable food and medical care. She, like many other Venezuelan migrants, left to find basic needs for herself and her child. With an open sky in her roofless makeshift home, she shared how difficult it is to keep the baby healthy when they have no shelter to stay dry.

The situation in Venezuela is expected to become the world’s largest refugee and migrant crisis this year. Hyperinflation continues to rise, making this the worst economic crisis in history outside of war.

2. South Sudan

South Sudan is filled with civil conflict – almost 400,000 people have been killed since 2013. The conflict has displaced 4.3 million South Sudanese people. Almost half have fled their home in search of safety.

“Soldiers wait outside your house leaning on a tree, and then when you go out to use the bathroom they take you away,” said Nola, a South Sudanese refugee who arrived in Uganda in 2016.

The conflict in South Sudan has subsided slightly following a nationwide ceasefire in 2018. Hope is on the horizon with a deal to create a unifying government, although tensions are still high. If talks around the government break down, South Sudan is at high risk of conflict rising up again.

3. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Most people forget about the situation in the DRC – believing conflict to mostly have occurred decades ago. War-torn with almost 5 million internally displaced persons, the country is still reeling from unrest.

Adding to the ongoing violence, the DRC is the most well-known host of the Ebola virus – putting their population at high and constant risk of the disease spreading rapidly.

Beatrice and Clarise carry jerry cans full of water back to their home.

Families like Beatrice’s are fleeing their country to find food, medical care and safety. She left the DRC in early 2018 with her six children, sleeping in the forest for three weeks until they reached and crossed Lake Albert to Uganda. On the journey to Uganda, she tragically lost one of her children to cholera.

After arriving in Uganda, her daughter Clarise fell ill. Beatrice worried that she, like the child she lost, was also dying. Thankfully, Clarise was carried to a Medical Teams clinic nearby, where she was stabilized and taken to a cholera treatment center. She survived, and Beatrice lives with hope that her children will be be able to thrive thanks to their access to care.

Almost 900,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring Uganda. With the combination of armed conflict, political instability and Ebola, the DRC could experience a major crisis in 2020. If the disease spreads to a highly populous area – like a major city – it will grow into an even larger humanitarian crisis.

4. Syria

Ongoing war in Syria has had a tremendous impact on the entire region, as millions of refugees have fled the country in search of safety. In neighboring Lebanon, more than a quarter of the country’s population is now comprised of Syrian refugees.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon continue to face significant challenges, often due to inability to work or move freely throughout the country. As a result, our strategy is to meet families where they are — providing care for those suffering from serious health conditions.

The situation in Syria is still highly volatile. A major escalation in conflict followed by a mass displacement are highly possible in the coming year. If the conflict does not dramatically decrease, Syria will continue to face massive and long-term humanitarian needs.

5. The Rohingya

On August 25, 2017, violence erupted in Rakhine State, Myanmar, forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people to leave their homes immediately in search of safety. Entire villages have been attacked and burned, with survivors fleeing on foot for days through jungle, over mountains and across rivers.

Bangladesh currently hosts the world’s largest refugee camp hosting over 600,000 people in one camp. Even in these camps, there is a dangerous lack of food, clean water and medical care. 

The situation with the Rohingya is a top one to watch because, in March 2019, Bangladesh said it would no longer accept Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Even though an agreement for the return of refugees was reached in early 2018, none returned. The risk of the Rohingya returning to the state of continued civil unrest in Myanmar could mean death.

It’s overwhelming to think about the amount of conflict that exists in our world today, and how you can help people in crisis. Beyond these five crises are a long list of other countries and other individuals making the choice to flee their home. The risk to leave is great, but the risk of staying is often greater.


You can help provide life-saving medical care for refugees from these countries, donate today

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