Eleven-year-old Udai was 6 when the war in Syria began. His little sister, Rana, was 2. They hardly know life before the violence, chaos, and strife.
Their family of eight remained in their home in eastern Aleppo as long as they could. But they were finally forced to flee when the fierce battle between government and rebel forces in late 2016 literally hit home.
“We had dinner and were getting ready for bed when we heard a ‘booooooom,’” Udai recounted in December. “And we started looking for each other. I was shouting ‘dad!’ No one was answering. People came in with flashlights and they found us.”
By the time Udai, Rana, and their three siblings escaped the city in mid-December, they had lost both of their parents and their 7-year-old sister in bomb attacks. The orphaned children relied on relatives and caring strangers to usher them to relative safety in Idlib, Syria.
Udai and his siblings are among more than 11.1 million Syrians who have been forced to flee their homes because of the war. Most — about 6.3 million people — remain displaced within Syria. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had registered almost 4.9 million refugees — people who have fled to other countries — as of January 5.
Conflict and insecurity in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and the Lake Chad Basin have also recently caused millions to flee their homes. Overall, more than 65 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced. That’s the most since World War II, according to UNHCR.
Most remain displaced within their home countries, but about 21.3 million people have fled to other countries as refugees. More than half of refugees are children.
Here are the five countries of origin that account for the most refugees.
Syria — 4.9 million refugees
Almost 300,000 Syrians fled the country in 2016, according to UNHCR. That puts the total number of refugees from the nearly 6-year-long conflict to almost 4.9 million. Most settled in neighboring countries, including Turkey (2.8 million), Lebanon (1.07 million), Jordan (655,000), and Iraq (231,000). The vast majority of Syrian refugees remain in the Middle East.
Since the crisis began, World Vision has helped more than 2.3 million people in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Serbia.
Afghanistan — 2.7 million refugees
About 2.7 million people from Afghanistan are living as refugees. Pakistan hosts about 1.6 million, including some second- or third-generation Afghan refugees who have never lived in their home country. Increased violence in 2015 and 2016 also led to a new surge of asylum seekers. Approximately 12 percent of the migrants and refugees arriving in Europe by sea this year are from Afghanistan.
Lake Chad Basin — 2.2 million refugees
Hunger and conflict took a heavy toll on children and families in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad near the Lake Chad water basin. The crisis has affected more than 9.2 million people, including 475,000 children with signs of malnutrition. About 2.6 million people have fled increasing violence, originating from northeast Nigeria, to live in camps or crowded host communities. The crisis is silently swelling as 2017 begins.
World Vision has helped 195,000 people in Diffa, Niger, and is scaling up operations in water and sanitation, food and cash programming, child protection, and youth engagement to include Baga Sola, a region of Chad.
South Sudan — 1.1 million refugees
The world’s youngest country sank back into violent turmoil in July 2016 after renewed fighting shattered a peace deal years in the making. This forced about 427,000 people from their homes between July 9 —South Sudan’s fifth birthday — and the end of November. Now, more than 1.1 million people are refugees in neighboring countries, half of whom fled to Uganda.
World Vision has helped more than 1 million people in South Sudan and refugees in surrounding countries with aid including food, a special nutrition treatment for malnourished children and breastfeeding mothers, livelihood training, seeds and farming supplies, household items like bed nets and blankets, and water and sanitation services.
Somalia — 1 million refugees
The total number of registered Somali refugees sits at about 1 million. As many as 87,000 returned home in 2016, but the humanitarian situation in the drought-hit country continues to worsen. Most refugees have settled in Kenya, Ethiopia, or Yemen. Some have lived in massive refugee camps for years. Within Somalia, about 1.1 million people are displaced because of insecurity.
Rounding out the top 10 refugee-producing nations are Sudan (628,800), Democratic Republic of the Congo (541,500), Central African Republic (471,100), Myanmar (451,800), and Eritrea 411,300). Globally, one in every 113 people is either a refugee, internally displaced person (IDP), or asylum seeker.