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Climate change forces 20 million people to flee each year, says Oxfam

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Vector illustration to the Ocean Day. Image of two icebergs, large and small. Infographics of global warming and rising waters on the planet. Dreamstime

Climate-related catastrophes such as floods and forest fires are driving millions of people from their homes every year, said anti-poverty nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Oxfam. While no one is immune, people in poor countries are most at risk.

Over the past decade, climate-fuelled disasters drove more than 20 million people a year from their homes, concluded a report released by Oxfam on Monday. The Oxfam study, titled “Forced from Home,” was released as two weeks of UN climate negotiations kick-start in Madrid.

It examined the numbers of people displaced inside their home countries by climate-fuelled disasters between 2008 and 2018, based on government and international agency data, as well as media reports.

“Today people are seven times more likely to be internally displaced by cyclones, floods and wildfires as they are by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and three times more likely than by conflict,” the report said.

While no one is immune, people in poor countries are most at risk, the NGO said. “People in low and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are more than four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States.”

Seven of the top 10 countries with the highest displacement by proportion of their population were small island developing states, largely in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the report found.

Asia is the continent most affected, said Oxfam, noting that around 80 percent of all people displaced over the last decade live there.

“Our governments are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price,” said Acting Executive Director of Oxfam International Chema Vera.

Overall, the number of weather disasters considered extreme grew five-fold over the last decade, researchers said.

As more people leave their homes as a result of weather disasters, costs – and threats to social stability – are rising quickly for the countries trying to manage that displacement, often with few resources, the report said.

At the UN climate talks in Madrid, environmental and development groups are pushing to establish a fund to help countries already reeling from climate-enhanced heat waves, droughts, floods and storms made worse by wilder weather and rising seas.

Poor and vulnerable nations are set to receive $100 billion  annually from next year to prepare for future effects, but no concrete provisions exist yet for “loss and damage” already incurred. DW

 

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