People displaced by disasters
Latest figures from IDMC estimate that more than 19.3 million people were forced to flee their homes by disasters in 100 countries in 2014. Hundreds of thousands are stuck in displacement following disasters that happened years ago.
The IDMC report draws on information from a wide range of sources, including governments, UN and international organisations, NGOs and media, to provide up-to-date statistics on the incidence of displacement caused by disasters associated with rapid-onset geophysical and weather-related hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and storms.
Note: Differences in totals are due to rounding of figures to the nearest decimal point. Source: IDMC data as of 1 June 2015
Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. This is equivalent to one person being displaced every second.
In 2014, 17.5 million people, 92% of the total, were displaced by disasters brought on by weather-related hazards mostly floods and storms. The three largest displacement events were caused by typhoons and floods in the Philippines and India.
Disasters related to geophysical hazards, primarily earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, displaced more than 1.7 million people, or 9% of the 2014 total.
The total number of people displaced varies greatly from year to year, depending on the frequency and size of the largest events. Latest historical models suggest however, that even after adjusting for population growth, the likelihood of being displaced by a disaster today is 60% higher than it was four decades ago.
Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014
The global population has grown by 96% since 1970. Urban populations have grown twice as fast (187% increase) and the growth rate of urban populations in developing countries has grown faster still (326% increase). In Haiti, Niger, Nigeria and South Sudan, for example, the urban population has more than doubled since 2000.
In many developing countries, urban growth has been rapid, unplanned and poorly governed, leading to greater numbers of vulnerable people being exposed to natural hazards. While more resilient families may be able to manage their exposure to less intense hazards such as seasonal floods or small earthquakes, these events can be a significant burden for the poorest families who have few resources to prepare for, and recover from them.
Displacement levels between 2008-2014 have been highest in the middle income countries of east Asia and the Pacific and south Asia. The urban population boom in middle-income countries means that rapidly increasing numbers of people are exposed to hazards, and many of them remain vulnerable. For example, a roughly equal number of people in Japan and the Philippines are exposed to typhoons. However, the Philippines experience much higher levels of displacement because its exposed population is more vulnerable to this hazard.
Lower and upper middle-income countries. Lower middle-income countries make up 36% of the world’s population, but account for 61% of displacement in 2014, showing how such countries are disproportionately affected by disaster displacement.
When looking at the largest displacement events in the past seven years, the global trends that drive increased exposure and vulnerability of people in the path of disasters become more apparent. As in previous years, Asia was worst affected by displacement associated with disasters in 2014, with 16.7 million people forced to flee their homes in the region throughout the year. Eleven of the 20 countries worst affected by displacement over the last seven years are all in Asia.
China, India and the Philippines, all upper and lower middle-income countries, experienced the highest levels of displacement in absolute terms, both in 2014 and over the last seven years. Disasters related to floods, storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in these three countries accounted for 15 of the 20 largest displacement events in 2014.
Small island developing states (SIDS) are usually among the worst affected countries each year in relative terms because of their size, location and topography. Their mostly low-lying island populations tend to be exposed to a range of hazards, particularly cyclones, floods, landslides, earthquakes and tsunamis, and when a disaster occurs it can affect a large part of the country. Between 2008 and 2014, they experienced levels three times higher than the global average, relative to their population sizes.
Haiti and Cuba have had the highest levels of displacement among SIDS over the past seven years in both relative and absolute terms, caused by earthquakes, floods and storms.
The common assumption that displacement following disasters is short-term and temporary does not hold true in many cases. The cases we identified highlight the plight of people, some of whom have been living in protracted displacement for up to 26 years.
A sample of 34 ongoing cases accounts for more than 715,000 people stuck in limbo, and points to the likelihood of hundreds of thousands more who have not yet been recorded. Most of the cases of protracted displacement we identified are in low and middle-income developing countries, but there are also significant examples in rich countries, such as the US and Japan. Vulnerable and marginalised people in high-income countries also risk being excluded from solutions.
People in such situations receive little attention and are likely to be left behind in long-term recovery, disaster risk reduction and development processes.
Governments should prioritise measures to advance solutions and strengthen the resilience of people whose displacement risks becoming protracted, or has already become so. They include people whose former homes have become permanently inaccessible or unsafe, informal settlers, poor tenants and people who face discrimination based on their class, ethnicity, gender or age. Interventions should be adapted to their specific needs.
Better addressing displacement will support the achievement of global and national commitments under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, action on climate change under the UNFCCC, the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals and preparatory work for the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. A comprehensive approach to displacement will help to forge strong links and continuity between these initiatives.
In order to prioritise resources and target responses to where they are most needed, a common framework for collecting, interpreting and comparing displacement data should be established between governments and partner organisations and across different timeframes.
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