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Disasters and Displacement: Exploring the Connections

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At one level, the relationship between disasters and displacement seems obvious. When flood waters rise or an earthquake strikes, people are forced to leave their homes, often seeking shelter with friends or family or living in temporary shelters. But the issue of forced migration is a complex one, raising questions about such issues as vulnerabilities and health. Responding to displacement in urban contexts—such as Haiti—is a different task than responding to displacement resulting from construction of large-scale infrastructure projects, such as dams in India, Brazil or China.

On October 25, the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) hosted the launch of the IFRC’s annual World Disasters Report, which focuses on forced migration and displacement. The discussion provided an opportunity to explore some of the complexities around the relationship between forced migration and disasters. Panelists included Senior Fellow Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement; Carrie Santos of the American Red Cross; and Roger Zetter of the Refugee Studies Center at the University of Oxford. Matthias SCHMALE, under secretary general for national societies and knowledge development at IFRC, moderated the discussion.