Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) disclosed the number based on governments’ data, data from UN humanitarian agencies and news accounts for publishing annual reports since 2003. In the first half of this year, the cyclones, floods, landslides, and other extreme weather events temporarily displaced more people compared to that during the same period in any other year.
According to their mid-year figures for 2019, published Thursday, the organization has recorded the highest number ever of disaster displacements by this point of time in the year. The Independent pointed out that this number was nearly double the number of displacement by violence and conflict during the same period this year.
“In today’s changing climate, mass displacement triggered by extreme weather events is becoming the norm,” the report authors wrote adding that the numbers represent “the highest midyear figure ever reported for displacements associated with disasters.”
Before Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, the number was tallied, and as per the prediction of the organization, it could soar to 22 million by the end of 2019, making this year one of the worst years for disaster-caused displacement on record. As The New York Times explained, the worst disasters usually occur between June and September when most storms inundate the tropics.
The extreme weather events the report covered included:
- Cyclone Fani in May – displaced 3.4 million people in India and Bangladesh.
- Cyclone Idaiin March – more than 1,000 people were killed, displaced 617,000 in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
- Spring flooding in Iran in March and April – displaced 500,000.
In June cyclone Vayu also displaced 289,000 in India. The flooding displaced 405,000 in the Philippines, 190,000 in Ethiopia and 75,000 in Bolivia. However, all the disaster displacements are not equal.
The latest figures are reflecting both the bad side and good. According to scientists, more people are exposed to extreme weather events that are becoming more extreme in the era of climate change especially in storm-prone Asian cities while many government authorities are becoming better prepared for extreme weather, with early warning systems and evacuation shelters to prevent mass casualties.
The 3.4 million people displaced by Fani were evacuated ahead of time and many lives saved as India and Bangladesh had learned from previous disasters. Less than a hundred fatalities were reported across both countries, according to the United Nations humanitarian affairs agency.
Both the individual countries and the international community need to learn from the increasing number of displacements related to weather, The IDMC urged.
“With the impact of climate change, in the future, these types of hazards are expected to become more intense,” IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak told The New York Times. “Countries that are affected repeatedly like the Bahamas need to prepare for similar, if not worsening, trends.”
The report also urged the world leaders meeting this month for the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, to consider the figures.
“The international community cannot continue to ignore internally displaced people,” Bilak said in a press release. “We must support national governments in their efforts to protect and assist IDPs, build peace and invest in sustainable development and climate change adaptation. Only then will we be able to reduce the upheaval, trauma and impoverishment that many millions of people suffer each year, and reverse the trends laid out in this report.”
These numbers may vary, outside experts said. The monitoring centre’s numbers may not adequately reflect slow-moving extreme weather events, such as rising temperatures or erratic rains or poor cultivation that can prompt people to pack up and leave home. In some cases, data provided by the government agencies may not be accurate, including for political reasons.
However, Kees van der Geest, who studies climate-induced displacement at the Institute for Environment and Human Security, a United Nations research organization, and who was not involved in the report, said the numbers tallied by the monitoring centre, even with these limitations, maybe the best estimates available.
Also, he said, they should be seen as “a low estimate.”
Last year 2 million people got dislocated alone due to extreme weather events and around 62 million people were under its impact in the same year as per the shocking findings in the Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018 by UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO).