A man looks at his village destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami in Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture,
northeast Japan, March 2011. (Photo: REUTERS/Toru Hanai)
New Report:
14.9 million uprooted by natural disasters
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NRC / IDMC (19.06.2012)
14.9 million people were internally displaced throughout the world due to natural disasters in 2011, mostly related to weather events such as floods and storms. 89% of the displacement occurred in Asia.


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The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) today launched its figures on people internally displaced worldwide by natural disasters at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil.

“The ten largest disasters in terms of the amount of people displaced all took place in Asia including multiple events in China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Japan” says NRC’s Secretary General Elisabeth Rasmusson. “The worst were the prolonged flood disasters in China and Thailand which together displaced over 5 million people”.

The largest displacement outside of Asia occurred in Mexico where Tropical Storm Arlene left 280,000 people homeless in Veracruz State in late June. The Americas accounted for 7% of the total global figure with over one million displaced, including by floods in Brazil which caused 170,000 to become uprooted from their homes. Four per cent of the global total were displaced in Africa, with Angola as the country with the highest number of people displaced (220,000) due to floods.

Typhoon Washi survivors rest in a crowded evacuation center in Iligan city, southern Philippines, December 2011. (Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

“The impact of climate change such as changing rainfall patterns and increases in temperature, combined with rapid population growth, suggest that more and more people are likely to be affected by displacement” says Rasmusson.

China had the highest number of people newly displaced, where 10 events including floods, storms and earthquakes throughout the year displaced a total of 4.5 million people. Sri Lanka was the country with the largest percentage of the population displaced (3%) with almost 685,000 people displaced due to heavy seasonal rains and back-to-back floods.

While weather related disasters accounted for 92% of total displacement, the largest displacement triggered by a geophysical event was the Japan earthquake and tsunami where 492,000 were forced to flee their homes. One year on, 344,000 people still live in temporary accommodation.

“The international community must ensure that vulnerable communities are prepared to respond and able to find sustainable solutions as they recover from such life changing events” says Rasmusson. “Delegates at Rio+20 must ensure that international efforts to reduce disaster risk, build resilience and adapt to climate change, include initiatives to strengthen national and local governance, support sustainable livelihoods and improve access to basic services for the millions displaced worldwide by natural disasters”.

For quotes and interviews, contact: 

 Clare Spurrell
, Head of Communications, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
E-Mail: clare.spurrell@nrc.ch Mobile: +41 79 379 89 52 

 Rolf A. Vestvik, Director of Communications, Norwegian Refugee Council
E-mail : Rolf.vestvik@nrc.no Mobile : +47 48 89 33 13

The report Global Estimates 2011, People Displaced by Natural Hazard-Induced Disasters is the leading annual summary of the numbers of people internally displaced by sudden onset natural disasters. It can be downloaded at www.internal-displacement.org.

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Key Findings 2012:
People displaced throughout the world in 2012

People displaced throughout the world in 2012:

 During 2012, an estimated 32.4 million people were displaced worldwide by disasters related to hazards such as floods, storms and earthquakes- almost double the number of people displaced in 2011. 

 Almost all disaster-induced displacement in 2012 (98 %) was related to climate- and weather-related hazards. 

 The largest displacement events of the year were massive flood disasters in north-east India and across most of Nigeria. 6.9 million and 6.1 million people were displaced respectively; 41 % of the global total. 

 98 % of people were displaced in developing countries- with the poorest and small, low-lying island states most vulnerable to disaster and disproportionately affected by displacement. 

 However, some of the richest countries were also badly affected. The USA was amongst the ten countries with the highest levels of displacement in 2012.


 Displacement in Africa reached a five-year high in 2012. 8.2 million were newly displaced, compared to 665,000 in 2011. 

 Flood disaster-induced displacement across thirteen countries in west and central Africa compounded the vulnerability of people already facing severe food insecurity and displaced due to conflict and violence. Chad, Niger, Nigeria and South Sudan were worst affected. 

 In 2012, Chad had the highest per capita level of displacement of all countries; and the Nigeria floods disaster created the second largest displacement event.


 As in previous years, most displacement was in Asia (68 % of the global total; 22.2 million displaced). 

 India saw the largest displacement event of the year due to monsoon floods in the north-eastern states of Assam and Arunchal Pradesh- 6.9 million people were displaced.

 Well over a million people displaced by floods in Pakistan for the third year running. Eight months on from the 2012 floods, 1.2 million were still living in makeshift or temporary shelters as of April this year, with the rainy season due to begin again in July. 

 Mindanao in the southern Philippines has seen unusually high levels of disaster-induced displacement in recent years. While still recovering from Typhoon Washi from December 2011, 2012 saw a further 1.8 million displaced by typhoons and floods, including the Typhoon Bopha disaster just a year later. People displaced by conflict were also affected.


 The USA was among the ten countries with the highest numbers displaced in 2012 mostly due to “Superstorm” Sandy (more than 775,000 displaced) and forest fires. 

 Relative to the size of its population, Haiti had the most displacement over the last five years compared to other countries worldwide (equivalent to 19 % of its population). 

 1.8 million people were displaced in the Americas mostly due to displacement by Hurricane Sandy in eight countries, and floods related to La Niña weather phenomenon in Peru and Colombia.


 Another five-year high was reported in Oceania. 128,000 people were forced from their homes by flood and storm disasters, including in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.


 In Europe, the largest displacement levels were reported in Russia (mostly due to flood disasters), in Italy (due to earthquakes) and in Spain (due to floods and forest fires).

©Global Estimates 2012, People Displaced by Disaster