Refugees at Nyanza reception centre in Rwanda prepare to depart for Mahama refugee camp. Photo/UNHCR

As Kenya plans to close the Dadaab refugee camp, raging conflicts in several African countries including Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Nigeria and Burundi have left 16 million people as refugees.

According to a report by the United Nation’s refugee agency (UNHCR), titled ‘Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015’, the number of African refugees, the highest since the establishment of the UNHCR, represents about a quarter of  more than 65 million people around the world who have had to flee their homes due to war, persecution, violence and human rights violations..

This figure, released on the World Refugee Day today, increased by 1.5 million from 2014 and most of the refugees, about 10.7 million of them, were internally displaced persons (IDPs). The remaining 5.2 million were people that fled their home countries. The vast majority of these refugees, roughly 4.4 million, sought refuge in neighboring countries, with Uganda now being home to over 600.000 refugees from South Sudan, Burundi and the DRC among other countries.

‘Like the previous years, the ongoing civil war in Somalia remained a huge factor in the high number of refugees. The simmering conflicts in South Sudan and Sudan were also responsible for putting many people on the run. Burundi descended into chaos after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was running for a third term, an election he went on to win. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram crisis drove a higher number of refugees to neighboring countries,’ the UNHCR states in the report.

The main host countries for refugees in 2015 remained Ethiopia and Kenya, where the majority of refugees from Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan have sought refuge. A country that saw a major increase in refugees was Uganda, where many people fleeing fighting in Burundi sought refuge. Also in Cameroon, the UNHCR counted more refugees in 2015 than in the previous year. The Boko Haram crisis on Cameroon’s northwestern border with Nigeria was responsible for the high numbers.

Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia also belong to the countries hardest hit by the rising number of IDPs. In Nigeria, the number of displaced people within the country compared to 2014 nearly doubled. But within the DRC, more than 700,000 internally displaced persons returned to their hometowns in 2015.