On this World Refugee Day, Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said it seems like "the world is falling apart," and “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Egeland warned, “We have never seen these numbers ever before in modern history. Now, 90 million people were either refugees or internally displaced within their country last year. That’s more than twice the number ten years ago.”
The NGO recently issued a report in which it measured the amount of funding of persons in displacement crises around the world, the amount of media attention and the amount of diplomatic and political initiatives being undertaken. “In all 40 of them, said Egeland, “the ten most neglected crises that came on the bottom of this list were all in Africa.”
Egeland blamed the media for not paying more attention to crises in Africa. He noted that in the Democratic Republic of Congo for example, “27 million people need humanitarian relief and nobody seems to cover this deep crisis.”
Unfortunately, he said, the funding “seems to prioritize Europe over the Middle East, over Africa. Africa is on the bottom of the pit, really.”
The NRC chief predicted “it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” and that the Ukraine conflict will “drag out.” African countries south of Sahara are seeing “extremist groups, militias, and crossfire between governments and all sorts of armed troops go through the roof,” Egeland told VOA.
He noted that conflicts have spread in the Congo and the economic situation in Syria and Yemen “is much worse, and Afghanistan, which everybody discussed last year and fell off our radar is worse.”
The Norwegian Refugee Council has helped about 10 million refugees, or internally displaced, or the people that have hosted them every year for the least 2-3 years according to Egeland, but the needs have increased dramatically around the world. Now we need to increase that number even further."
He added "We have a large program in Ukraine. The NRC is working in about 30 countries where there is displacement but the humanitarian group is “overstretched and underfunded like never before.”
When asked how he prioritizes the help his organization provides for displaced people given the dozens of conflicts and climate change-induced disasters worldwide, Egeland said the NRC is governed by humanitarian principals “and one of them is impartiality, which means go after the needs and needs alone; we don’t care what religion or this or that ethnic background.”
Egeland stated “We were able to fund Ukraine on top of all of the other ongoing operations. Next year it might be that Ukraine competes with Yemen, and Syria and Congo and Mali and that the neglected emergencies today will even be more neglected next year because there will more attention to a potentially unresolved conflict here in Europe.”