Geneva/Oslo, 6 June 2011 – Over 42 million people across the world were forced to flee due to disasters triggered by sudden‐onset natural hazards in 2010, according to a new study by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)’s Geneva‐based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). In 2009, 17 million people were displaced by such disasters, and 36 million in 2008.
“The scale of displacement is enormous. Every single number in this report is a person whose life is severely affected, and it is vital that those women, men and children who are being displaced by the impact of climate change and natural hazards receive the assistance and protection they need”, said NRC Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson at the launch. “This report provides us with evidence of the extent and urgency of the problem that we cannot ignore. We must increase collaborative efforts to prevent displacement by natural disasters, and do a better job of protecting those displaced”.
Over 90 per cent climate‐related
The number of natural disasters reported has doubled from around 200 to over 400 a year over the past two decades. In 2010, over 90 per cent of disaster displacement within countries was caused by climate‐related hazards, primarily floods and storms. “The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events is increasing, and this trend is only set to continue. With all probability, the number of those affected and displaced will rise as human‐ induced climate change comes into full force”, said Rasmusson. “The humanitarian community will have to be better prepared to respond to large‐scale natural disasters and the displacement that follows. The way that the international response system is set up today, we cannot do so adequately”.
Mega‐disasters displace most
The huge numbers, and the variations between years, were largely due to the impact of the largest “mega‐disasters” such as the massive floods in India in 2009, and in China and Pakistan in 2010, as well as the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti. In Pakistan in mid‐2010, at least 11 million people were forced to leave their home areas, and had their homes and livelihoods destroyed by the flood waters.
During the same period, flooding in China which covered a huge area of the southern provinces, as well as some in central and even the north displaced over 15 million people.
Asia worst hit region
Countries on all continents were affected by the increase in natural disasters, including many smaller nations in which disasters displaced a large proportion of the population. However, Asia is by far the worst hit region, and countries in south and south‐east Asia, including India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia as well as China and Pakistan, had among the largest numbers displaced.
The figures in the report refer to the number of people newly displaced during each year, and do not consider how long they remain displaced. The ability of governments and the international community to respond to such displacement, to protect displaced people effectively, and to enable2 them to eventually achieve a durable solution to their displacement, will also determine the future scale of the crisis.