Editor’s Note: This story first published on Sept. 11, 2015. It was updated with more recent figures on April 18, 2016.
Imagine every man, woman and child leaving home in 29 states, mostly in the U.S. West and Midwest. That’s everyone west of Ohio and Kentucky and north of Texas, all the way to California.
The 158 million people in those states make up the same share of the U.S. population – 49% – as the proportion of Syrians that have fled carnage there.
The war in Syria is so hellish and unrelenting that more people have left that country than any other in recent years. One of every five displaced persons in the world is Syrian.
Here’s a look at where those Syrians have gone.
War has displaced half of all people in Syria
Protests against the government in Syria in 2011 soon devolved into chaotic war. The fighting and later rise of ISIS had forced 10.6 million people from home by late 2015 – about half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Most have fled to countries near Syria
Most Syrians who have left their homeland registered as refugees with the United Nations. Three in four Syrian refugees did that in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, according to UN figures from February 2016.
More of them have gone to Europe
The number of Syrians seeking safety in Europe more than doubled from 2014 to 2015. Many left Turkey and other countries for Europe to ask for asylum, a status that allows someone to live and work legally in another country.
They’re not the only ones
Worldwide, 59.5 million people are on the move as refugees or displaced people within their home countries. That population would be enough to make them citizens of the world’s 24th biggest country.
Humanity has never seen such displacement. Ever.
“Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere,” the United Nations said in June.
At least 15 wars and conflicts are to blame – in Africa, the Mideast and Asia.