22 Million People Displaced by Disasters in 2013, Global Trends on the Rise

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Latest report from IDMC shows that 22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events – almost three times more than by conflict in the same year.

Four decades of data show that twice as many people are being displaced today than in the 1970s. A new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, launched today at the UN in New York, reveals this is largely due to the growth and concentration of urban populations, particularly in vulnerable countries.

This increasing trend will continue as more and more people live and work in hazard-prone areas. It is expected to be aggravated in the future by the impacts of climate change”, said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Displacement caused by disasters is a global phenomenon that is growing in scale, frequency and complexity. “More people today are exposed and vulnerable. Our report shows that much more can be done to prepare for and prevent displacement caused by disasters”, said Jan Egeland.

According to the report, no region of the world is immune to disasters, but as in previous years the worst affected was Asia, where 19 million people, or 87.1 per cent of the global total, were displaced. Both wealthy and poorer countries are affected, although developing countries bear the brunt, accounting for more than 85 per cent of displacement.

Major disasters drive the global trend. In the Philippines, typhoon Haiyan alone displaced 4.1 million people, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined.

Viewed relative to population size, seasonal floods also caused significant displacement in sub-Saharan Africa, most notably in Niger, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan – countries with highly vulnerable populations who are also affected by conflict and drought. Given that Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050, displacement risk is expected to increase faster than in any other region in coming decades.

The extent to which populations in the most developed countries are exposed to hazards also led to some of the world’s largest displacements. Typhoon Man-yi in Japan displaced 260,000 people and tornadoes in the US state of Oklahoma 218,500.

Most disasters are as much man-made as they are natural,” said IDMC’s director, Alfredo Zamudio. “Better urban planning, flood defences and building standards could mitigate much of their impact”.

As world leaders prepare to gather for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Global Climate Change Summit, this evidence calls for action to be taken to reduce disaster risk and to help communities adapt to changing and more unpredictable weather patterns, without which much more displacement will occur in the future.

The full report, highlights document, and graphics are available to download here

Notes to the editor:

  • IDMC considers that ‘natural’ hazards are events or conditions originating in the natural environment that may affect people and critical assets located in exposed areas. They include climate- and weather-related events as well as geo-physical events such as earthquakes. The impact of these hazards is often strongly influenced by human actions that contribute to disaster risk and long-term changes in the global climate; therefore, the causes of these hazards and disasters related to them are often less than ‘natural’.

  • It is widely agreed that the vast majority of people displaced by disasters are internally displaced (defined by the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement), which is the focus of displacement situations highlighted by the Global Estimates report. A smaller number are displaced across borders, but this has not been quantified globally.

  • The global figures relate to cases of new displacement each year. They do not include people who have remained displaced for prolonged periods of time following disasters in preceding years. This is a global information blind spot that should be of concern to governments, given that the risks faced by displaced people tend to increase the longer that they are displaced.

For more information, please contact:

Tuva Bogsnes, Norwegian Refugee Council

E-Mail: [email protected]
Mobile: +(47) 932 31 883

Ane Høyem, Norwegian Refugee Council

E-mail: [email protected]

Mobile phone: +(47) 975 65 108

Erik Abild , Norwegian Refugee Council

E-mail: [email protected]

Mobile phone: +(47) 474 19 946

This article was published on 21stSeptember International Day of Peace, in Global Education Magazine.

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