The number of people fleeing Ukraine since Russia's invasion began in late February has risen quickly. The United Nations said 3 million people fled the country in the first three weeks, and the number has now grown to over 4 million. The head of the U.N. refugee agency called it the fastest exodus of people in Europe since World War II.
Most of those evacuating are women and children, as men between the ages of 18 and 60 have been ordered to stay and defend the nation.
The Ukrainian refugees who have had to leave their homes join millions of others around the world who have been displaced by conflict, violence or insecurity. More than 34.4 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced from their homeland as of the end of 2020, and 48 million more were displaced internally, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Here are some of the places facing significant external displacement.
Syria - 6.7 million refugees
The Syrian civil war has driven "unprecedented devastation and displacement" since it began in 2011, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Syria has the largest number of refugees in the world at 6.7 million, according to the U.N.
Afghanistan - 2.6 million refugees
Refugees have been fleeing Afghanistan for decades, and the situation escalated with the withdrawal of U.S. troops in August 2021. There were roughly 2.6 million Afghan refugees at the end of 2020, according to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people, many of whom worked to support the U.S. military, have been evacuated into the U.S. since last year.
South Sudan - 2.2 million refugees
Conflict and insecurity have forced millions out of their homes in South Sudan, which is the site of Africa's largest refugee crisis, according to the United Nations. Officials have been overwhelmed by the crisis for years, which, in part, was spawned by a civil war that broke out after South Sudan officially became a nation in 2011.
As of the end of 2020, according to the U.N., the country has produced 2.2 million refugees.
Myanmar - 1.1 million refugees
More than 1.1 million refugees had fled Myanmar as of the end of 2020. Like many nations facing refugee crises, Myanmar is also struggling with internal displacement — in February 2022, the United Nations said the number of internally displaced people there has doubled since the year prior. The refugee crisis has stemmed largely from violence against Rohingya Muslims, which prompted hundreds of thousands of people to flee in recent years.
Palestinians - 5.7 million displaced
Many regions struggle with large populations of displaced people, even if they don't meet the U.N. definition of refugees.
Palestinians are not considered refugees under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. But more than 5.7 million Palestinians are listed under the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, which operates in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
Venezuela - 4 million displaced
Venezuela has been wrought with political instability and a dire economic crisis over the past few years, leading millions of Venezuelans to flee their homes in search of safety and stability. Though they do not fall under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' definition of refugees, nearly 4 million people from the country were displaced abroad at the end of 2020, the U.N. said.
Democratic Republic of the Congo - 5 million displaced
The United Nations Refugee Agency has declared the situation in Congo an emergency. From 2017 to 2019, the agency said, waves of violence and unrest displaced an estimated 5 million people within the country, and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to other countries. Even as many returned to their regions, they often have found their homes, businesses and schools in ruins, according to the agency, and human rights violations, including mutilations, killings and sexual violence, are still rampant.
Yemen - 4 million displaced
The emergency in Yemen is the "world's largest humanitarian crisis," according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. The country, one of the poorest in the Middle East, has suffered from years of warfare. More than 4 million people have been internally displaced because of the situation, and over 20 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UNHCR.
Ethiopia's Tigray region - 1 million displaced
Since military conflict broke out in the region in November 2020, the United Nations has said more than 1 million people have been displaced. According to the U.N., a lack of basic services, as well as shortages of food, water, fuel and money, has only furthered the humanitarian toll of the conflict, which also brought human rights atrocities, including rape and beatings.
Nigeria & Lake Chad Basin region - 2.4 million displaced
The militant Islamist group Boko Haram, designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and U.N., has gained control in parts of Nigeria's northeast, forcing the displacement of nearly 2.4 million people, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Nigeria's security forces have been battling the insurgency since 2009, a conflict that has resulted in the deaths of more than 40,000 people. Last year, gunmen kidnapped 140 students from a boarding school, continuing a wave of mass abductions.
Since the rise of Boko Haram in 2014, the region has been wracked with food insecurity, severe malnutrition, limited access to basic services and recurrent epidemics, according to the U.N.
The Sahel - 2.6 million displaced
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the emergency in Africa's Sahel region is "one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world." It is also one of the most forgotten, the agency says.
The Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, has been terrorized by conflict, while also facing stifling effects from climate change. Temperatures in the region, according to the U.N., are increasing at 1.5 times the global average, furthering already existing conflicts over resources. So far, 2.6 million people in the region have fled their homes, and 930,000 are considered refugees or asylum-seekers.
Burundi - 333,700+ refugees
The East African country of Burundi has been suffering from political unrest since 2015. Violent clashes broke out and there was an attempted military coup, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing across borders for safety, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.