(Unosat/ Digital Globe 2014 / edited by The Washington Post)

For human rights advocates, 2014 has been a catastrophic year.

Just take the satellite images shown above: They offer a small, but stunning insight into suffering in northern Jordan. Within two years, the Zaatari refugee camp has evolved from an uninhabited desert area to a tent city that houses more than 85,000 people.

It is only one camp among many. Here are seven other reasons to feel discouraged.

1. Nearly 1 million Syrians have fled their country this year

The Syrian flight began nearly three years ago, and the total number of registered refugees is now at about 3.1 million. To put the Syrian number in context, here is a striking graph showing how rapidly the number of registered refugees rose from summer 2012 to fall 2014. Our graph is based on the latest United Nations data, released Sunday.

Before-and-after satellite images from Unosat/Digital Globe show how Syrian refugees who fled the battle zone left their cars on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey.

Syria is by no means the only country from which people were forced to flee. Between May and August, the number of people displaced inside Ukraine increased 26-fold, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency. At the end of May, the United Nations estimated there were 10,000 internally displaced people in Ukraine; the number rose to 260,000 in September. 

2. More than 10 million stateless people lack human rights protection

Wars and conflicts have another impact, as my colleague Ishaan Tharoor pointed out recently: They force millions into statelessness. When refugees are driven from their homes and into other countries, acquiring another citizenship is extremely difficult. Others are being denied citizenship for political reasons, as is the case for the Rohingya Muslims of Burma.

A recent U.N. report found that there were roughly "10 million people worldwide who lack a nationality and the human rights protections that go with it." What's particularly striking is that the U.N. Refugee agency estimates that one-third of all stateless people are children. They grow up on the margins of societies, which makes them more vulnerable to all sorts of abuse. The map below only includes data up to 2013.

3. About 36 million people are forced to live as modern-day slaves

Such exploitation is not unique to Asian or African countries. It also occurs in the United States, where a report released by the Australia-based Walk Free estimates that 60,000 slaves live in the shadows of American society.


Share of each country's population that is enslaved. Click to enlarge. Data Source: Walk Free Global Slavery Index 2014. (Map: The Washington Post)

Last year, Walk Free estimated that there were 30 million slaves worldwide, but the rise does not necessarily reflect an actual increase in slavery within the last 12 months. Instead, the varying numbers are due to a change in methodology, now taking into account a larger variety of forms of slavery.

4. On Tuesday, a Senate report revealed details about enhanced interrogation techniques that were used by the CIA




(Graphics by Kennedy Elliott, Julie Tate and Swati Sharma/ The Washington Post)

5. In many countries, gender gaps persist

Despite some progress, women continue to struggle for access to education and adequate health care in a host of developing countries. Developed countries face their own problems: Wage inequities persist virtually everywhere. The United States improved a few spots this year, ranking 20th, ahead of fellow Anglophone countries such as Australia and Britain. But it still lags behind far poorer nations such as Nicaragua and Rwanda.

6. In Nigeria, Boko Haram's war against human rights and Western education has intensified

On April 14, 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants from a school in Chibok, northern Nigeria, according to official figures. More than 200 days have passed since the girls were abducted, and according to estimates, more than 200 are still being held by Boko Haram.

Fatalities from noncriminal Nigerian violence — a term that includes attacks by terror groups and communal or political actors — have risen rapidly since 2010, and Boko Haram attacks are the main driver. The militant group has killed at least 5,100 Nigerians this year, according to estimates from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

This graph shows how fatalities caused by Boko Haram mounted from around zero to more than 5,000 annually within only six years and almost doubled from 2013 to 2014. The data used for this graph date back to October.

7. The Islamic State has massacred thousands in Iraq and Syria

Between May and October, fighters from the Islamic State targeted cities and areas in northern Iraq and Syria and massacred soldiers and residents, especially those belonging to minority tribes and non-Sunni Muslim sects and other religions. This map shows some of the massacres carried out as of the end of October.


Ishaan Tharoor and Swati Sharma contributed to this report.