A Look At Recent Major Humanitarian Crises

With nearly 9 million refugees displaced so far, Syria's humanitarian crisis among the worst in decades.
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    In this October 2012 Photo, around 14,000 refugees are sheltering in Kigeme camp in southern Rwanda, having fled a recent surge in violence in eastern DR Congo. (Photo: Laura Eldon/Oxfam via Flickr)

    In this October 2012 Photo, around 14,000 refugees are sheltering in Kigeme camp in southern Rwanda, having fled a recent surge in violence in eastern DR Congo. (Photo: Laura Eldon/Oxfam via Flickr)

    GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top official for refugees says nearly nine million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes by the civil war there, making Syria’s humanitarian crisis among the worst in decades and “probably the most dangerous for global peace and security” since World War II.

    The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, appealed for donations of nearly $13 billion next year to care for at least 52 million refugees in 17 countries, many of them displaced by conflicts that have raged for years.

    Here is a look at other major refugee crises in recent decades:


    An estimated two million Rwandans fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and other neighboring countries beginning in April 1994 to escape the genocide committed by ethnic Hutu militants that claimed the lives of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

    International organizations rushed to help but the effort was complicated by the presence of organized Hutu extremists who based the camps to launch attacks against the new Rwandan government of President Paul Kagame. The crisis languished for years, during which Rwanda-backed rebels toppled the Congolese government of Mobutu Sese Seko and his successor, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated.

    As the situation in the region has gradually stabilized, most of the Rwandan refugees are believed to have returned home. But both Rwanda and the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo are still trying to recover from the effects of the crisis nearly 20 years later.


    Fighting erupted in Bosnia in April 1992, mostly between Muslim-led supporters of the country’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia and the mostly Serb opponents. Until the war ended in December 1995 with the U.S.-mediated Dayton peace agreement, an estimated 2 million people — nearly half the population — were displaced, many at the point of a gun by armed factions of hostile ethnic groups.

    Hundreds of thousands fled to Germany and other Western European countries, others to parts of the Balkans where their ethnic groups were in the majority.

    Although many have returned, the country’s population shrank from a pre-war figure of 4.37 million to nearly 3.8 million as of last month’s census, in part because many refugees obtained foreign citizenship and never went home. Many of those who did found old homes destroyed and their neighbors unwelcoming, forcing some to find new homes within the country.


    Decades of tension between Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority and the Serb-led Yugoslav government in Belgrade exploded into armed rebellion by the Kosovo Liberation Army by February 1998. U.S. and Russian efforts to resolve the conflict collapsed and the U.S. and its NATO allies launched a bombing campaign in March 1998, which lasted for 78 days until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic accepted a ceasefire.

    Before the conflict ended, an estimated one million people — half the Kosovo population — had fled their homes, including about 600,000 who escaped to Albania and Macedonia. U.S. and NATO troops have kept an uneasy peace, with many Kosovo Serbs now feeling abandoned and unsafe in a country now ruled by ethnic Albanians.


    Nearly four decades after war erupted in Afghanistan, the country and its neighbors are still struggling with the problems of Afghans displaced by conflict.

    Following the Soviet invasion of December 1979l more than eight million people are believed to have fled the country, most to the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran. Efforts at large-scale repatriation have been launched several times since the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but have stumbled with outbreaks of new fighting, including the arrival of U.S. and Western forces after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001.

    Human Rights Watch estimates that 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees have been living in Pakistan for more than 30 years while another one million remain unregistered. Hundreds of thousands more are still in Iran, some having returned to Afghanistan only to come back once again because of a lack of jobs and poor security.

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