13 May 2013 | Julia Blocher
Displaced by disasters: 32.4 million people uprooted in both rich and poor countries
A new report released today by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reveals that 32.4 million people were forced to flee their homes in 2012 by disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes. While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3 million were displaced in rich countries, with the USA particularly affected.
98% of all displacement in 2012 was related to climate- and weather-related events, with flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounting for 41% of global disaster displacement in 2012. In India, monsoon floods displaced 6.9 million, and in Nigeria 6.1 million people were newly displaced. While over the past five years 81% of global disaster-related displacement has occurred in Asia, in 2012 Africa had a record high for the region of 8.2 million people newly displaced, over four times more than in any of the previous four years.
In countries already facing the effects of conflict and food insecurity such as in Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Sudan, we observe a common theme. Vulnerability to disaster triggered by floods is frequently further compounded by hunger, poverty and violence; resulting in a ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors that lead to displacement.
There is also increasing scientific evidence that climate change will become a factor. A 2012 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that there is some evidence to support the claim that “[d]isasters associated with climate extremes influence population mobility and relocation, affecting host and origin communities.”
The report highlights how disaster-induced displacement takes a toll in both rich and poor countries with the USA appearing among the top ten countries with the highest levels of new displacement, with over 900,000 people being forced to flee their homes in 2012. People in poorer countries, however, remain disproportionately affected and make up 98% of the global five year total.
In the US following Hurricane Sandy, most of those displaced were able to find refuge in adequate temporary shelter while displaced from their own homes. Compare this to communities in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands are still living in makeshift tents over three years after the 2010 earthquake mega-disaster, and you see a very different picture.
A critical component to improving community resilience and government responses to disasters is better data collection on people who have been displaced.
Currently the information available is biased, often only focusing on the most visible people who take shelter in official evacuation sites or camps. We need to know more about those who seek refuge with families and friends, people who are repeatedly displaced by smaller disasters, or those who are stuck in prolonged displacement following a disaster– not just those that make headlines.
Download the 2012 Global Estimates of people displaced by disasters here.