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Natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts

ArceGenesis Photos-World Vision Photo-CC BY 2.0

18 September 2014 - Natural disasters drove 22 million people out of their homes last year. Even though 2013 was a year full of conflicts, natural disasters still displace three times as many people as conflicts worldwide. Floods, hurricanes and other hazards are becoming increasingly common and twice as many people now lose their homes to disasters as in the 1970s, shows a new report from Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)

The report focuses on global challenges, that is: how we prevent, how we prepare for and how we find solutions to the displacement of millions of people caused by natural disasters each year.

“The numbers of people who need humanitarian assistance, and the cost of helping them, are skyrocketing. We need to shift our focus to prevention and preparedness in close cooperation with national partners,“ says UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon.

Those living in developing countries are most at risk. The study found more than 80% of those displaced over the last five years lived in Asia. That pattern held last year as well when nearly 19 million of the 22 million displaced lived in Asia.

In the Philippines last year, some 5.8 million people lost their homes because of a constellation of disasters. Typhoon Haiyan alone displaced some 4.1 million, with others forced out by typhoon Trami and an earthquake.

Mass migration from countryside to cities is also putting more and more people at risk – especially in Asia’s mega-cities, which are the most disaster prone.

“People are crammed together and there is no escape. They live in river deltas, they live on hurricane beaches, they live along river beds that are easily flooded, they live where there are mud slides, and so on,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary of the Norwegian refugee council.

In 2009, IDMC produced its first report together with OCHA with global estimates of the scale and nature of displacement by disasters, such as floods, storms and earthquakes. Over the last years, the data and analysis in these reports have helped us monitor how we are protecting and supporting people displaced by disasters.

This year’s report is extremely timely. As we prepare for the Climate Summit in New York next week 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.

Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon has asked world leaders next week to bring bold announcements and actions to the Climate Summit September 23.

“We really need to work much harder in disaster risk reduction. We need to be more prepared for displacement caused by climate change. It is essential that we ensure that we include mechanisms for early warning and that we devise responses for those who have been displaced by disasters and climate change,” concludes Ban-Ki-moon.

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