Item 66 of the provisional agenda*
Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and
displaced persons and humanitarian questions
The present report is submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 75/164 on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa. It updates information contained in the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the Assembly at its seventy-fifth session (A/75/322) and covers the period from 1 July 2020 through 30 June 2021. The report was coordinated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and includes information provided by the International Labour Organization, the International Organization for Migration, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
1. During the reporting period, Africa continued to host increasing numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and others affected by conflict, persecution and violence, with the humanitarian landscape characterized by both new emergencies and protracted situations. By the end of 2020, the number of persons of concern in Africa reached 35.9 million, up from 33.4 million in 2019. That figure includes 6.6 million refugees, 22.2 million internally displaced persons, 982,000 stateless persons and 490,000 asylum seekers. In 2020, some 2.8 million forcibly displaced people returned to their areas of origin (2.6 million internally displaced persons and 208,000 refugees), compared with 4.4 million (4.2 million internally displaced persons and 212,000 refugees) in 2019.
2. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hampered the ability of the United Nations and its partners to ensure protection and assistance to those in need and to pursue durable solutions. Across the continent, closed borders, lockdowns and curfews affected asylum space and freedom of movement, and the closure of businesses and schools threatened to derail hard-fought gains made in previous years to achieve self-reliance, enhance livelihood opportunities and ensure that displaced children could claim their right to education. Stigmatization and discrimination against forcibly displaced persons exacerbated their situation. Together with the economic downturn, that led to increased vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity and health problems. An increase in sexual and gender-based violence was observed, with violence against women and girls emerging as a shadow pandemic alongside the decreased ability of survivors to access support. The African Union considered COVID-19 a serious threat to peace and security and called for inclusive measures to support refugees and other vulnerable groups.
3. Despite pressing domestic challenges, compounded by COVID-19, African countries generously continued to host refugees and asylum seekers, including from outside the region. In 2020, Uganda hosted the highest number, at 1.42 million. Other countries hosting large numbers of refugees included the Sudan (1.04 million), Ethiopia (800,000), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (490,000), Chad (479,000), Kenya (453,000), Cameroon (436,000) and South Sudan (314,000). The majority of refugees came from South Sudan (2.2 million), Somalia (815,000), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (840,000), the Sudan (787,000), the Central African Republic (642,000), Eritrea (522,000), Burundi (373,000) and Nigeria (353,000).
4. In 2020, there were an unprecedented 22.2 million internally displaced persons in Africa. Widespread and indiscriminate violence escalated in Burkina Faso, with the number of internally displaced persons nearly doubling during the year, to 1.1 million. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the number reached 5.2 million. Other major internal displacement situations included those in Somalia (3 million), Ethiopia (2.7 million), Nigeria (2.6 million), the Sudan (2.6 million) and South Sudan (1.6 million).
5. In December 2020, the Chairperson of the African Union and the SecretaryGeneral convened the fourth African Union-United Nations annual conference to discuss cooperation on peace and security, development and human rights and review progress in the implementation of joint commitments. They agreed to accelerate joint efforts in the context of the decade of action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and to ensure robust cooperation in the context of COVID-19, including a unified response to leave no country behind and contribute to longer-term recovery.
6. In June 2021, the African Union Peace and Security Council expressed concern about the unprecedented levels of forced displacement in Africa, which undermined efforts to achieve the aspirations set out in Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want of the African Union and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Peace and Security Council called for the immediate operationalization of the African Humanitarian Agency to empower and strengthen the predictive, preventive and response capabilities of African countries.