The statistics behind refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are often misleading.
When you are presented with refugee issues by various organisations -be they NGOs, social media groups, or Governmental organisations- you are often given the statistics of who is suffering, and how many are suffering.
For example, RIJ calculates that the people who are IDPs number approximately 900,000 in Pakistan. These are people who have lost their homes, lives, and sense of well being in their own country. While the numbers can be shocking, statistics like these are almost certainly underestimated, wherever you look.
Recently, the UNHCR reported that its estimated number of IDPs in Mali was grossly underestimated. Whereas it was previously estimated that there are 119,000 IDPs, new estimates by the UNHCR are now at 204,000 IDPs. That’s almost twice as many people who have lost their way of living.
There are plenty of other examples too. As of writing this article, there are roughly 1.7 million people are internally displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo according to the UNHCR. The IDMC, however, puts the number closer to 2.4 million.
Why is this? It’s not a case of incompetence or lack of will to find the right estimates. Often, there are more victims of conflict and displacement than we believe for a variety of reasons.
Many people who find themselves as refugees or IDPs have very little security or help. As a result, strong feelings of vulnerability are unavoidable. This makes people fearful of giving their name, location, and other such information to surveyors.
Male refugees can easily begin to feel inadequate or incapable of protecting their families. Many men simply disappear out of shame and are then left unaccounted for. This is partly why the vast majority of displaced persons recorded in refugee camps are women and children.
Alternatively, some people may have stayed behind to care for and defend their homes, or are too old to travel the long, arduous road to a refugee camp.
It is problems like these that lead to many suffering people being left unseen by the rest of the world.
One of the most important things to remember, then, is that when you are told who and how many are suffering in places like Mali, Syria, or Burma, chances are that there are many more who suffer with them.