Displaced people need assistance


EVERY minute 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.
The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.
An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2018.
Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
Here in Papua New Guinea, we also have our in-country refugees, although they do not fall within the legal definitions of a refugee.
These people are termed as internally displaced persons (IDPs) who often live in protracted displacement with limited access to land. An IDP is someone who is forced to flee his or her home but remains within his or her country’s borders.
As of November 2014, at least 22,500 people were displaced in PNG as a result of conflict or natural hazard-related disasters such as volcanoes, floods, earthquakes and mudslides.
Two thirds of internally displaced people have been displaced by natural hazards and the rest by conflict.
In many areas, natural disasters, conflict, violence and development projects often coincide to create an environment conducive to displacement.
The majority of those displaced by conflict and disaster live in the Highlands.
Other provinces that have been hit by natural and manmade disaster have their own IDP.
An example is the Manam Islanders at the care centres in Madang. In November 2004, a major eruption forced the emergency evacuation of over 9,000 inhabitants of the island.
In 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the Highlands and affected an estimated 544,000 people in five provinces.
According to the international organisation for migration, assessment teams visited 38 displacement sites in the Hela, Southern Highlands and Western.
Sadly though, IDPs are not recognised as a distinct category of affected people with specific protection or assistance needs and their numbers are not captured in disaster assessments.
Marked every June 20 since 2001 is World Refugee Day in which people around the world recognise and applaud the contribution of forcibly displaced people throughout the world.
Northern Governor Gary Jufa on marking the day on Saturday sounded a reminder that refugees deserved just as much respect and dignity as any other person and commended the efforts of Caritas PNG and the Catholic Bishops Conference.
There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
In PNG, nearly all IDPs are living in protracted displacement, having been displaced for between 4-10 years and having failed to return or successfully find other durable solutions.
And the danger now is tension with host communities which has overtime erupted into conflict over land and resources, putting IDPs at risk of violence and sometimes secondary displacement.
Lack of food, clean water and adequate sanitary facilities and reduced access to healthcare is a major problem both in IDP camps and host communities.
To effectively address the needs of IDPs, the government should make internal displacement a priority and recognise it as both a humanitarian and development concern.
Juffa gave his assurance that issues affecting refugee resettlement would be raised on the floor of Parliament and that we applaud. The Government should increase the involvement of the international community to help increase visibility on issues around internal displacement.

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