The most urgent refugee crises around the world

Updated Jun 08, 2023
In the past decade, refugee crises claimed headlines on a daily basis. Millions of people have fled their homes to find safety and a future. Situations like the Syrian civil conflict and the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh are just two examples.

Refugee crises around the world still continue to make headlines and be a major concern. In fact, the number of refugees and internally displaced people worldwide has grown: more than 103 million mid-2022, up from 82.4 million at the end of 2020. Among them, 36.1 million are children, 1.5 million of whom were born as refugees. This means that roughly one in every 78 people in the world is now forcibly displaced. 

The ongoing Ukraine crisis has also exacerbated the number of displaced people around the world, impacting official available figures. With a constant flow of people fleeing the country, reports estimate that more than 8.2 million people were displaced since the first month of the crisis, which started in February 2022. This exodus is considered “one of the fastest-growing refugee emergencies on record.”

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation became even more dire. Below, read the main facts and figures of the most pressing refugee crises in 2023. They are listed by the country and region from which the refugees and migrants originate.  
You will notice that we use terms such as ‘refugees’, ‘internally displaced people’, ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘migrants.’ To get a better understanding of what each term means, check out our article “What is a refugee? Facts and how to help.” 


  • Number of refugees: 8 million
  • Number of internally displaced people: 5.9 million
In February 2022, violent conflict broke out on the Russia-Ukraine border between Russian and Ukrainian military forces, forcing millions to flee their homes and causing widespread death and destruction in Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine has reverberated across the world, disrupting global supply chains and raising inflation on necessities such as fuel and food.

According to the UNHCR, approximately 17.6 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian assistance. Millions of refugees—mostly women and children—have sought safety in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Moldova and Romania.

Learn more about the Ukraine crisis and what World Vision is doing.

Ukrainian children and a few parents sit together in a crowd on the floor of a house in Moldova.Two thirds of the 7.5 million Ukrainian children have become displaced in the last year. Here at the Pro Valoare Refugee Centre in Moldova, these children and their families are learning to rebuild their lives again after they were disrupted by violence. Photo: Christopher Lete


  • Number of refugees: 5.4 million
  • Number of internally displaced people: 6.9 million
Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war that has left the country in shambles. It accounts for over 25 per cent of the global refugee population with approximately 13.5 million people displaced. As of 2023, 6.9 million were scattered across the country, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Of that number, 5.9 million people are in acute need of humanitarian assistance. To date, there are about 2.7 million Syrian children living as refugees and about 2.5 million children living as internally displaced people. 
Syrians who fled the conflict are currently living in more than 125 countries, but most are sheltering in neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. A number of Syrian refugees live in camps such as Zaatari and Azraq in Jordan, but the vast majority – 95 per cent – live in urban and rural areas. 
Learn more about the Syrian refugee crisis and what World Vision is doing.

Two Syrian girls wearing bright-coloured sweaters stand side by side, smiling and looking at the camera.
Syrian children living in a refugee settlement in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Photo: Maria Bou Chaaya


The Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis is one of the largest displacement crises in the world. While other refugee crises have been triggered by conflict and war, the Venezuelan situation is different. To date, about 5.6 million Venezuelans have left the country as a result of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis fomented by years of economic hardship and political instability. While most are considered migrants, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizes 186,800 refugees and over 952,300 asylum-seekers.   
A collapsed economy, shortages of food and medicine, and lack of security are some of the main reasons millions of Venezuelans have left their homes. Most of the migrants go to nearby countries, including Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador. With no proper documentation, thousands are struggling to establish themselves in host countries, becoming vulnerable to labour and sexual exploitation, trafficking, violence, discrimination and xenophobia.  
Learn more about the Venezuelan migrant crisis and what World Vision is doing.

The hands of a woman and a small child.
The hands of a mother and child. A small family of three makes the journey back to their home in Venezuela after fleeing to Peru. Faces were cut off from the frame to protect their identities. Photo: Erica Bohorquez


  • Number of refugees: 2.8 million 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 2.9 million
Afghanistan has endured a two-decade conflict, economic hardship and climate-related challenges. As a result, more than 2.8 million people have fled the country, with 90 per cent hosted by Iran and Pakistan, and the rest going to different countries in Europe and elsewhere. The situation in Afghanistan is so dire that as of March 2022, 24.4 million people – nearly half the country’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. 
Although 5.3 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, the number of Afghans going back home has sharply declined in recent times. One major contributor to this is the increase in violence across the country. In 2021, the latest surge of violence in Afghanistan has forced another 600,000 people to flee their homes. Of all recently displaced Afghans, 80 per cent are women and children. 
Learn more about World Vision’s work in Afghanistan.

Mother and child getting treated by a female medical professional at a mobile clinic.
A mother and child consult with a doctor at a mobile clinic in Afghanistan’s Herat Province. They are among thousands of internally displaced families living in informal settlements in the area after fleeing their homes due to drought and conflict. Photo: World Vision Afghanistan Staff

South Sudan

  • Number of refugees: 2.4 million 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 2 million
Established in 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country. However, in 2013, conflict broke out, sending the country into a downward spiral of violence, economic crisis, hunger and disease. As a result, millions of South Sudanese have fled their homes, creating the largest refugee crisis in Africa.  
Of the 2.4 million South Sudanese refugees, over 80 per cent are women and children. It is estimated that of the total refugee population from South Sudan, 63 per cent are children. Most of this population is being hosted in neighbouring countries, including Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  
Learn more about the South Sudan refugee crisis and what World Vision is doing.

A group of five children sitting outside a mud hut sing and motion with their hands.
South Sudanese children in the Maaji III refugee settlement sing and play. Photo: Aggrey Nyondwa


  • Number of refugees: 1.2 million 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 1.3 million
The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. Since the early 1990s, they have faced discrimination and violence, forcing many to flee the country. Myanmar’s government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Since 2017, 773,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh to escape the escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The vast majority settled in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. 
One of the camps, Kutupalong, is the largest refugee settlement in the world, hosting over 635,000 people in an area of about 13 square kilometres. The majority of the Rohingya refugees are women and children – 40 per cent are children under 12.  
In 2018, even though an agreement was reached for the Rohingya to return home, none did. The refugees don’t want to go back until they have the guarantee of safety and citizenship. 
In December 2020, the Bangladeshi government started relocating groups of Rohingya refugees to settlements on an island in the Bay of Bengal. They claimed that the move would offer the families better quality of life and security as they await repatriation to Myanmar. As of February 2022, there are 19,000 Rohingya refugees on the island of Bhasan Char, while 81,000 more are expected to be relocated once the monsoon season ends. 
In addition to the crisis with the Rohingya people, in February 2021, the Myanmar military ousted the country’s elected government and established a military-run “State Administration Council.” This doubled the number of internally displaced people in the country to 800,000 as of February 2022. A sharp increase from the 370,000 people the previous year. 
Learn more about the Rohingya refugee crisis and what World Vision is doing.

A man squatting over a dirty floor washes his hands by pouring water from a kettle.
In the Rohingya refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, basic hygiene practices such as hand washing are an everyday challenge. Photo: Xavier Sku


  • Number of refugees: Over 1 million
  • Number of internally displaced people: 3.7 million
In April 2023, violent conflict erupted in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. This conflict was related to a proposed transition to democratic governance. Since then, the violence has continued to escalate and spread to other parts of the country.

The conflict has destroyed critical infrastructure in the country and pushed over a million people to flee their homes to neighbouring countries, such as Egypt, Chad and South Sudan. Before the conflict, almost 16 million people were already dependent on humanitarian agencies such as World Vision for support and survival.

Learn more about the crisis in Sudan and what World Vision is doing to help.

Refugee women and children from Sudan sit together in a crowd, most wearing head coverings.
These Sudanese women arrived at a transit centre in Chad, just outside Sudan. They are among the hundreds of thousands of families fleeing the violence in the country. Photo: Mallory Dionkain

Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Number of refugees: Over 1 million
  • Number of internally displaced people: 5.1 million
Between 2017 and 2019, the complex humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was made worse by waves of unrest. That period caused more than 5 million people to become internally displaced, and over 1 million people to flee to neighbouring countries including Angola, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.  
The ongoing conflict in the DRC has been full of atrocities and human rights violations such as physical mutilation, sexual violence and detention in inhumane conditions. It is reported that people who have managed to return home have found their communities in ruins.  
Although thousands have fled the DRC, the country is also hosting over 535,000 refugees and asylum-seekers  from Burundi, the Central African Republic South Sudan and Rwanda. Approximately 75 per cent of them live outside of refugee camps or settlements. 
Learn more about the DR Congo refugee crisis and what World Vision is doing. 

Central Sahel

  • Number of refugees: Over 1 million
  • Number of internally displaced people: 3 million
The Sahel encompasses the semi-arid region of Africa separating the Sahara to the north and tropical savannas to the south. The crisis in the region is concentrated in the central Sahel, which includes Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Armed conflict, food insecurity and climate-related challenges, coupled with the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, have created a severe humanitarian crisis. It’s led many to leave their homes to survive. Currently, an estimated 29 million Sahelians need assistance and protection. 

People have been fleeing the central Sahel region since 2011, when violence escalated in northern Mali. Over the years, violence has increased and spread to new areas, including the Lake Chad basin. Internal displacement has increased tenfold in the region. From 213,000, the number has ballooned to over 2 million people as of January 2022. 

With violence and extreme weather conditions plaguing the region, food insecurity is also at increasingly high levels. Hunger is projected to increase by 50 per cent, from 5.5 million people to 8 million people facing severe food insecurity, or 1 in every 8 people in the region.

A man cuts a bush in arid terrain while several people watch.
Ibrahim Moussa cuts a thorn bush in Chadakori refugee settlement in Niger. He fled his village with his family due to escalating violence. Photo: Ibrahim Mohamed Samna, Joelma Pereira


  • Number of refugees: 836,300 

  • Number of internally displaced people: 2.9 million
The refugee crisis in Somalia dates back 30 years. Political instability and the civil war that started in the 1990s have driven hundreds of thousands of Somalis from their homes. Extreme weather conditions, such as drought in the north and abnormally high rainfall in the south and central regions, have also significantly impacted the ability of Somalis to secure their livelihoods. 

The crisis has been exacerbated by episodes of famine and ongoing conflict. Between 2010 and 2012, a severe famine claimed the lives of nearly 260,000 people – of those,    133,000 were children under five. The drought emergency in the country has also intensified, causing about 572,000 people to be displaced internally between October 2021 and February 2022. This adds to the 650,000 Somalis already displaced by serious flash floods in 2020. 

Currently, there are more than 750,000 refugees living in neighbouring countries (Kenya, Yemen and Ethiopia), and over 2.9 million people are internally displaced in the country. 

Central African Republic

  • Number of refugees: 741,000 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 518,000
The humanitarian emergency in the Central African Republic is considered one of the most poorly funded crises in the world. In 2013, violence by armed rebel groups forced thousands to flee their homes. Approximately 741,000 people are living as refugees in neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Moreover, an estimated 652,036 people are internally displaced. The crisis has exacerbated an already poverty-stricken country: as of January 2022, there are 3.1 million people in need, 1.4 million of whom are children.   
As of February 2021, Bangui (the capital and country’s largest city) was taken by rebels, who have restricted routes used for delivering supplies. It is reported that displaced families are camping out in buildings like churches, and that they lack essentials such as food and spare clothes.  
In December 2021, turbulent elections resulted in conflict that displaced more than 200,000 people in less than two months.  
Learn more about the Central African Republic crisis and what World Vision is doing.

Five children wearing worn-out clothes stand side by side in a field.
Refugee children from the Central African Republic living in Camp Bili, in the North Ubangi province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Didier Nagifi Sademoke


  • Number of refugees: 272,127 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 1.2 million
The Iraq war started in 2003, but the displacement crisis didn’t emerge until 2014, when violence escalated in the northern part of the country. Attacks launched by the Islamic State (ISIL) gave rise to a conflict that forced millions of families to flee their homes and destroyed half of the country’s infrastructure

It is estimated that more than 270,000 people left Iraq and over 1.2 million people are currently displaced inside the country, half of whom are children. According to the UNHCR, a significant number of internally displaced people returned to their homes in 2018 but continue to face challenges accessing essential services (such as food, water, sanitation and healthcare) and livelihoods. The agency says there are over 2.5 million Iraqis in need of humanitarian assistance.

Four Iraqi boys stand side by side. Two of them look at the camera.
Iraqi boys living in settlements for internally displaced people in Salah al-Din, Tikrit, Iraq. Photo: Shayan Nuradeen


  • Number of refugees: 141,308 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 4 million
Since conflict erupted in Yemen in 2015, 200,000 people have fled the country and approximately 4 million have become internally displaced. An estimated 20.7 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Yemen is facing the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. Even so, the country still hosts more than 200,000 refugees from neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia. 

Physical danger, food insecurity and inadequate healthcare are the main challenges people from Yemen are facing. According to the UNHCR, almost two-thirds of the population is on the brink of famine. Children are being disproportionality affected, with an estimated 2.3 million under the age of five at risk of acute malnutrition and 400,000 at risk of severe malnutrition.

Northern Ethiopia (Tigray, Amhara, Afar)

  • Number of refugees: 120,000 
  • Number of internally displaced people: 1.7 million
In November 2020, armed conflict broke out in the northern region of Ethiopia known as Tigray. As the fighting continues, hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to flee their homes. Currently, the UNHCR estimates 1.7 million displaced people from Tigray, more than half of whom are women and children. Others are fleeing to nearby Sudan – about 120,000 people. Tigray also hosts thousands of refugees from Eritrea.

The situation has given rise to an alarming humanitarian crisis – around 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UNHCR reports that more than 3,000 people are leaving Tigray for Sudan every day. The vast majority is sheltering in remote areas that have little infrastructure to help them. The humanitarian response has been slow due to a lack of electricity, as well as poor telecommunications and little access to fuel.

A woman stands and holds a baby while four other children stand around her. There is a crowd behind her.
Tehagos, 34, along with her four children, fled the Tigray crisis and is now at a site for internally displaced people. Photo: Fitalew Bahiru, Kebede Gizachew

Updated by Alicia Dubay

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