Humanitarian crises due to extreme weather and other natural disasters are on the increase. Though these disasters affect people of all socioeconomic backgrounds in different countries, a disproportionate number of victims are poor.

Worldwide, 32.4 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2012, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). That’s roughly twice the number of displacements that occurred the previous year.

Monsoon flooding in Assam, India. Pic: Dominique Feron EU/ECHO 2012

In 2012, 14 out of 20 largest natural disasters in terms of displacement were in Asia.

Over the past five years, 81% of global displacement happened in Asia. It should come as no surprise that the two countries with the largest populations – India and China – also lead the world in displacements due to natural disasters.

From the Voice of America:

India suffered the world’s largest displacement in 2012 due to repeated and relentless flooding, which was further compounded again by inter-communal tensions. So in India we saw six-point-nine million people displaced by monsoon floods in the northeast.

–Clare Spurrell, chief spokesperson for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center

This event was also the 4th largest of the past five years.

China, however, saw double India’s number of nature-driven displacements from 2008 through 2012. Natural hazards in China have forced 50 million people from their homes over the past five years – 35% of the global total. The two largest events occurred on Chinese soil: 2010’s monsoon floods (15.2 million people) and the 2008 Sichuan earthquake (15 million).

Jundao, Sichuan after 2008 earthquake. Pic: Miniwiki (Wikimedia Commons)

Extreme weather events accounted for 98% of last year’s 32.4 million displacements in China.

From China Dialogue:

More recent events have also wreaked havoc in China, notably a string of severe summer storms in 2012 which collectively broke a number of extreme weather records. The worst of them, Typhoon Haikui, displaced more than 2 million people in eastern China in August after destroying more than 4,400 homes in Zhejiang province alone.

According to the IDMC, deaths associated with major weather events are falling, but displacements are expected to continue to rise. The increase is attributed to a mix of population growth, rapid urbanization and an increase in both the severity and frequency of extreme weather due to climate change.

The world’s top five displacements due to natural disasters from 2008-2012:

  1. 2010 China: monsoon floods 15.2 million
  2. 2008 China: Sichuan (Wenchuan) earthquake 15.0 million
  3. 2010 Pakistan: monsoon floods 11.0 million
  4. 2012 North-east India: monsoon floods – 6.9 million
  5. 2012 Nigeria floods 6.1 million

(Source: internal-displacement.org)

Access the entire IDMC report here.