A United Nations-backed report launched last week reveals that 22 million people worldwide were displaced in 2013 by disasters sparked largely by earthquakes or climate- and weather-related events – almost three times more than by conflict in the same year.
The report, ‘Global estimates 2014: people displaced by disasters’, conducted by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), shows that the risk of displacement due to disasters has more than doubled over the last four decades – 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, general secretary of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
According to the report, both wealthy and poorer countries are affected, although developing countries bear the brunt, accounting for more than 85 per cent of displacement. 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.
In the Philippines, typhoon Haiyan alone displaced 4.1 million people, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined.
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.
Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050 therefore displacement risk is expected to increase faster than in any other region in the world.
As the world gears up to solidify a post-2015 development agenda, there will also be an opportunity to include the needs and challenges of internally displaced people in negotiations.
“As we prepare for the [Secretary-General’s] climate summit the devastating impact of disasters and the massive displacement we see as a result, highlight the need for strong and decisive action to tackle the catastrophic threat of climate change,” UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson Eliasson said.