20th May 2013
Global Estimates 2012: People displaced by disasters
We tend to think of climate change as being decades into the future, but climate disasters are already displacing millions of people worldwide.
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The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has released its Global Estimates 2012 report. This reveals that over 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 events, with flood disasters in India and Nigeria accounting for 41% of the total. 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 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," says Clare Spurrell, Chief Spokesperson for IDMC. "Here, 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 evidence to support the claim that "[d]isasters associated with climate extremes influence population mobility and relocation, affecting host and origin communities."
IDMC’s 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," says Spurrell. "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."
According to the IDMC report, 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," says Spurrell. "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."