Disaster displacement on the rise
In the last seven years, an estimated one person every second has been forced to flee their home by a natural disaster, with 19.3 million people forced to flee their homes in 2014 alone, according to a new report.
The research suggests disaster displacement is on the rise, and as policy leaders worldwide advance towards the adoption of a post-2015 global agenda, the time has never been better to address it.
In the report, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) released today its global report, The Global Estimates: People displaced by disasters. The report reveals how, in 2014, 17.5 million people were forced to flee their homes by disasters brought on by weather-related hazards such as floods and storms, and 1.7 million by geophysical hazards such as earthquakes.
“The millions of lives devastated by disasters is more often a consequence of bad man-made structures and policies, than the forces of mother nature,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of NRC. “A flood is not in itself a disaster, the catastrophic consequences happen when people are neither prepared nor protected when it hits.”
The report points to the man-made factors that drive an overall increasing trend in disaster displacement, like rapid economic development, urbanisation and population growth in hazard prone areas. “These factors are a toxic mix, because when such hazards strike there are more homes and people in their path, and therefore flight becomes necessary for survival” said director of IDMC, Alfredo Zamudio. Climate change is also expected to exacerbate the situation in the future, as severe weather hazards become more frequent and intense.
The report argues that these drivers are increasing the number of people becoming displaced, and the risk that their displacement becomes a long-term problem. Today, the likelihood of being displaced by a disaster is 60% higher than it was four decades ago, and an analysis of 34 cases reveals that disaster displacement can last for up to 26 years.
People in both rich and poor countries can be caught in protracted, or long-term, displacement. In the US, over 56,000 people are still in need of housing assistance following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and 230,000 people have been unable to establish new homes in Japan following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.
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Tornado aftermath image via Shutterstock.