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2013 Natural Disasters’ Toll Highest Since 1970: IDMC Report

Just days before the UN Climate Summit 2014, a new report reveals 22 million people were internally displaced in 2013 as a result of disaster, three times as many as those internally displaced by conflict, due to the impact of climate change on people.

The report, produced by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), shows that 22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events – almost three times more than by conflict in the same year, said Jan Egeland, Norwegian Refugee Council’s Secretary General.

“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 Egeland, who was former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from June 2003 to December 2006.

Displacement caused by disasters is a global phenomenon that is growing in scale, frequency and complexity. “More people today are exposed and vulnerable. Our report shows that much more can be done to prepare for and prevent displacement caused by disasters”, said Jan Egeland.

According to the report, no region of the world is immune to disasters, 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. Both wealthy and poorer countries are affected, although developing countries bear the brunt, accounting for more than 85 per cent of displacement.

Major disasters drive the global trend. In the Philippines, typhoon Haiyan alone displaced 4.1 million people, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined.

Viewed relative to population size, 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. Given that Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050, displacement risk is expected to increase faster than in any other region in coming decades.

The extent to which populations in the most developed countries are exposed to hazards also led to some of the world’s largest displacements. Typhoon Man-yi in Japan displaced 260,000 people and tornadoes in the US state of Oklahoma 218,500.

“Most disasters are as much man-made as they are natural,” said IDMC’s director, Alfredo Zamudio. “Better urban planning, flood defences and building standards could mitigate much of their impact”.

As world leaders prepare to gather for the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Global Climate Change Summit, this evidence calls for action to be taken to reduce disaster risk and to help communities adapt to changing and more unpredictable weather patterns, without which much more displacement will occur in the future.

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