World Refugee Day: Three Things You Must Know

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Today marks 60 years since the founding of the UN refugee agency. Initially tasked with assisting 2.1 million Europeans displaced by World War II, it now works in 120 countries and is charged with helping millions more. In a cover story for TIME last year, Krista Mahr reported that the system is over-stretched and under-funded.  The UNHCR’s annual report confirms this and more.

Here are three things you should know:

1.The Number of Displaced People Is at a 15-Year High

The numbers really speak for themselves:  As of last year, there were 43.7 million people displaced from their homes because of violence or persecution. That’s the highest figure in more than a decade and is roughly equal to the population of South Korea. This figure includes 15,000 unaccompanied children. It does not include those displaced by this year’s conflicts in Libya or Syria.

2. Poor Countries Host 80% of Refugees

Rich nations spend a lot of time worrying about the ‘flood’ of refugees at the door (hello, Europe). But 80% of refugees are hosted by poor countries, the UN finds. Pakistan has the world’s largest refugee population at 1.9 million. Iran is second, Syria third, with 1.1 million and 1 million, respectively. According to UNHCR data, the economic impact is greatest in Pakistan, which hosts 710 refugees for every dollar of its per capita GDP. Meanwhile, Germany has 17 refugees per dollar of per capita GDP.

3. Afghanistan and Iraq Are Top Source Countries

To the list of ‘collateral damage’ caused by the American-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, add mass displacement. In 2010 Afghanistan was the largest source country, with more than 3,000,000 refugees. Iraq was second, at about 1.5 million.

(More on Read about Syria’s emerging refugee crisis.)