New research finds nearly 14 million people a year are losing their homes because of sudden onset disasters such as floods and cyclones.
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, which analyzed the impact of sudden onset disasters in 204 countries and territories, warns that homelessness will continue to rise unless significant progress is made in managing disaster risk.
According to the research — officially released on Friday, marking International Day for Disaster Reduction — eight of the 10 disaster-prone countries with the highest levels of displacement are in East, South or Southeast Asia. India and China top this list. The two countries outside this region are Russia, ranked ninth, and the United States, ranked 10th.
The head of data and analysis at the center, Justin Ginnetti, said the 13.9 million people displaced by sudden onset disasters excluded those told to evacuate an area before a disaster struck. He called this a conservative figure, since homelessness due to drought was not included in the data.
Floods chiefly repsonsible
"Most of this displacement is being driven by floods, which is on the increase in a globally warming world and where population growth is increasing in flood-prone areas," Ginnetti said. "Population exposure is indeed a key component of displacement risk. More people are likely to be displaced by disasters in countries with large populations."
The data show displacement associated with disasters will mainly affect developing countries. However, the chief spokesman for the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Dennis McClean, said economic losses would be greatest in the richer countries. He said this year would probably be the worst year on record in terms of economic losses.
"If we look just at the Atlantic hurricane season, which is still ongoing, we see that economic losses in the United States alone are probably in the region of about $300 billion," McClean said. "That is what the initial estimates are telling us. And, of course, the losses are perhaps even more significant in small island states in the Caribbean, which have also been devastated by these events."
Specialists in disaster risk reduction are urging nations to improve land zoning and the quality of buildings, especially in seismic zones and on land exposed to storms and floods. They note that good early warning systems may not save homes but will save lives.