A person forced from home every two seconds by climate fuelled disasters – Oxfam

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Climate-fuelled disasters were the number one driver of internal displacement over the last decade, forcing more than 20 million people a year – one person every two seconds - to leave their homes, according to a report published by Oxfam today.

Oxfam’s briefing, Forced from Home, found that people are now seven times more likely to be driven from their homes by cyclones, floods and wildfires as they are by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict.

While no one is immune – in recent weeks wildfires in Australia and floods in Europe have displaced thousands of people – Oxfam’s analysis shows that people in poor countries, who bear least responsibility for global carbon pollution, are most at risk. Around 80 percent of all people displaced in the last decade live in Asia, home to 60 percent of the world’s population and over a third of the people globally who are living extreme poverty.

Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB Chief Executive, said: “Our governments urgently need to get to grips with a climate crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes.

“The poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price - climate change is forcing people around the globe – hungry farmers in Guatemala, pastoralists in Ethiopia and those hit by cyclones in Asia or Southern Africa – to abandon their homes and face up to an uncertain future.”

The contentious issue of financial support for communities, including displaced communities, which have suffered loss and damage as a result of the climate crisis, is expected to take centre stage at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid from 2 –13 December 2019.

The unequal impacts of the climate crisis are apparent across the globe. For example, in March 2019 Cyclone Idai displaced 51,000 people in Zimbabwe. The most affected communities lived in rural areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge where poor infrastructure and housing were unable to withstand the heavy rains and wind. Displaced women are particularly vulnerable as they, for example, face high levels of sexual violence.

People in low- and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are over four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States.

Small Island Developing States make up seven of the 10 countries where people face the highest risk of internal displacement from extreme weather events. On average nearly five percent of the population of Cuba, Dominica and Tuvalu, were displaced by extreme weather each year in the decade between 2008 and 2018. Small Island Developing States per capita emissions are around a third of those in high-income countries.

The UN is due to conclude a review of the progress made under the ‘Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage’ at the summit in Madrid and developing countries will be pushing for a new fund to help communities recover and rebuild after climate shocks.

Rich donor countries have largely left poor countries to cover the rising costs of extreme weather disasters themselves. New Oxfam analysis shows that economic losses from extreme weather disasters over the last decade were, on average, equivalent to two percent of countries’ national income. That figure is much higher for many developing countries – up to an astonishing 20 percent for Small Island Developing States.

Sriskandarajah said: “Governments can and must make Madrid matter. They need to commit to faster, deeper emissions cuts and establish a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters.”


Notes to editors:

Video and pictures from Ethiopia and Guatemala are available here

The 25th UN Climate Summit takes place in Madrid, Spain from 2 – 13 December 2019

Pictures and testimonies available from:

  • Guatemala where a six-year drought has devastated crops bringing poverty and hunger. With no food and no means of making a living, more and more people are making the long and dangerous journey to Mexico or the United States in the hope of finding work and feeding their families.
  • Ethiopia and Sudan where pastoralist communities have been forced to leave their homes and land by years of drought that has decimated crops and livestock. Many now rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

Oxfam spokespeople are available at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid and around the globe.

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