A record number of people, seven million to be exact, have been displaced from their homes during the first six months of 2019, according to a September report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). This makes 2019 one of the most disastrous years in almost two decades, even before Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas. IDMC compiled this data from governments, United Nations humanitarian agencies, and media reports.
A deadly combination of floods, landslides, cyclones and other extreme weather events temporarily displaced more people in the first half of this year than in any other year for the same period. Climate change is exacerbating this increase in extreme weather with major storms like Cyclone Fani and Idai and floods and landslides accounting for a major chunk of such displacements. India had the highest number of displaced people at 2.2 million, followed by Bangladesh at 1.7 million. Even then, the report contends that because of the prior warnings and preemptive measures taken, the loss of actual lives was far lower than what it had been for previous storms in India.
As per the report, the projection, based on recent trends, for the second half of 2019 looks quite grim. Around 22 million new displacements are forecasted by the end of the year, an increase of around 25 per cent over the 2018 figure. To quote from the report, ‘In today’s changing climate, mass displacement triggered by extreme weather events is becoming the norm.’
These numbers may not adequately reflect slow-moving extreme weather events, like rising temperatures or erratic rains, that can also lead to displacement due to food insecurity, according to the monitoring centre’s own assessment. Government agencies may also not issue accurate data. Hence, these figures may well be a low estimate.