World, Europe

Disasters outpacing conflict as displacement driver: UN official

UN agencies release report showing mortality, economic impact of weather, climate extremes, with 31M displaced in 2020

Peter Kenny   | 01.09.2021
Disasters outpacing conflict as displacement driver: UN official


Around a number of 31.31 million people displaced by disasters last year seemed to get larger compared to those displaced by conflict and people pushed into poverty because of catastrophes, a UN disaster reduction official said Wednesday.

Mami Mizutori, the secretary-general for the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said while more lives are saved thanks to early warning systems, the number of people exposed to disaster risk is increasing due to population growth.

She shared a news conference with Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, releasing the Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2019.

"More international cooperation is needed to tackle the chronic problem of huge numbers of people being displaced each year by floods, storms, and drought," said Mizutori.

Greater investment in comprehensive disaster risk management can ensure that climate change adaptation becomes part of national and local disaster risk reduction strategies, she said, citing the 31 million people displaced by disasters last year.

"The number of people displaced by disaster is almost getting larger than the number of people displaced by conflict people pushed into poverty (26 million a year) because of disasters, even before COVID-19," said Mizutori.

COVID and extreme weather

"And of course, the number of people who go into hunger is increasing. And now with COVID, and extreme weather events attacking us at the same time, we live in this what we call the multi-hazard war world."

Mizutori said July was the hottest month since records began in a time of heatwaves and floods.

The report highlights the impacts of specific weather, climate, and water hazards, providing a regional breakdown of disaster data.

"The number of weather, climate, and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change," said Taalas.

"That means more heatwaves, drought, and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America."

He said there is more water vapor in the atmosphere, exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding.

"The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms," said Taalas.

Mizutori also said the disaster-mitigating investment could save lives.

She cited the example of New Orleans in the US, which was hit by Hurricane Ida this week on the anniversary of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, one of the most costly disasters on record.

"In the city of New Orleans, in particular, they invested in prevention," which kept mortality in the city low.

The Louisiana city had a new hurricane and storm damage risk-reduction system, investing $14.5 billion in gates, floodwalls, and levees "that protected from this once in a century storm."

"So, that made the difference this time," said Mizutori.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.