The number of refugees worldwide is going up

There are now more than 45.2 million displaced people — 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers and 28.8 million forced to flee within the borders of their own countries. The crisis is at its worst since 1994, according to a report released today by the United Nations. And more unaccompanied children sought asylum last year than ever before.

The report, based on data collected from governments, nongovernmental organizations and the UN's refugee agency, says about 7.6 million people were displaced during 2012 alone because of conflict or persecution. On average, about 20,000 people were displaced every day in 2012.

Average number of newly displaced persons per day 2003-2012. via UNHCR/Global Trends 2012.

War continued to be the major cause of displacement in 2012. Five countries mired in conflict — Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan — accounted for 55 percent of all refugees in 2012. Of those displaced last year, 1.1 million are refugees and 6.5 million are internally displaced people.

Among the more shocking data released by the United Nations was this: of all refugees, almost half were below the age of 18 and more than 21,000 new asylum applications were submitted by children in 2012, the highest ever number recorded by the UN's refugee agency.

Major source countries of refugees, end 2012. via UNHCR/Global Trends 2012.

Many countries are stepping up aid and seeking solutions to end the growing refugee problem, which can be a heavy burden for still developing nations. Typically, more than 80 percent of refugees find asylum in developing countries. In 2012, however, Germany hosted the most refugees outside of Pakistan and Iran.

The numbers do not reflect those displaced this year by the spiraling conflict in Syria. The United Nations says 1.6 million Syrian have fled the country since the conflict began in 2011. The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees T. Alexander Aleinikoff said he expects there to be 3 million total Syrian refugees by the end of 2013.

Major refugee hosting countries, end 2012. via UNHCR/Global Trends 2012.