About 2.14 million people were displaced in India last year due to natural disasters, according to a United Nations-backed report which said the country was third after the Philippines and China to record the highest levels of displacement in 2013.
The report ‘Global Estimates 2014: people displaced by disasters’ said 22 million people worldwide were displaced in 2013 by disasters sparked largely by earthquakes or climate, almost three times more than by conflict in the same year.
In India, a total of 26.13 million people were displaced between 2008-2013, second only to China which had 54.25 million displacements.
Last year alone, 2.14 million people were displaced in India due to natural hazard-related events while conflict and violence displaced 64,000 people.
“Between 2008 and 2013, 80.9 per cent of displacement took place in Asia. The region accounted for the 14 largest displacements of 2013 and the five countries with the highest displacement levels: the Philippines, China, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam,” the report said.
In south Asia, cyclone Mahasen forced the evacuation of around 1.1 million people in Bangladesh in May, and in October widespread monsoon season floods displaced over a million in several Indian states.
In the same month, cyclone Phailin, the strongest to hit India in 14 years, brought widespread devastation to eastern coastal areas and forced the evacuation of another million people.
The report noted that improved preparedness including evacuations was credited with limiting the death toll to fewer than 50 people in the country.
China, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and the US had the highest numbers of people displaced by rapid onset disasters between 2008-2013.
The report by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) shows that the risk of displacement due to disasters has more than doubled over the last four decades-largely due to the growth and concentration of urban populations, particularly in vulnerable countries.
“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,” Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland said here yesterday.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the report was “extremely timely” as it highlights the need for early warning systems and emergency evacuations in today’s world of increasing and intensifying disasters.
“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,” Eliasson said.
The report calls for action to be taken to reduce disaster risk and to help communities adapt to changing and more unpredictable weather patterns, to prevent further displacement.
According to the report, both wealthy and poorer countries are affected, although developing countries bear the brunt, accounting for more than 85 per cent of displacement.
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.
In the Philippines, typhoon Haiyan alone displaced 4.1 million people, a million more than in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania combined.
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.
Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050 therefore displacement risk is expected to increase faster than in any other region in the world.
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 United States state of Oklahoma 218,500.
As the world gears up to solidify a post-2015 development agenda, there will also be an opportunity to include the needs and challenges of internally displaced people in negotiations, the report said.
“As we prepare for the (Secretary-General’s) climate summit 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,” Eliasson added.
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