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Economic losses, poverty & disasters: 1998-2017

This report evaluates total disaster-related economic losses and fatalities between 1998 and 2017. The report finds that between 1998 and 2017, climate-related and geophysical disasters killed 1.3 million people and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. While the majority of fatalities were due to geophysical events, mostly earthquakes and tsunamis, 91% of all disasters were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events.

In 1998-2017, disaster-hit countries experienced direct economic losses valued at US$ 2,908 billion, of which climate-related disasters caused US$ 2,245 billion or 77% of the total. This is up from 68% (US$ 895 billion) of losses (US$ 1,313 billion) reported between 1978 and 1997. Overall, reported losses from extreme weather events rose by 151% between these two 20-year periods.

The report further discusses absolute losses relative to the burden on the poor. The findings reveal that inequality is even greater than available losses data suggest because of systematic under-reporting by low-income countries. While high-income countries reported losses from 53% of disasters between 1998 and 2017, low-income countries only reported them from 13% of disasters. No losses data are therefore available for nearly 87% of disasters in low-income countries.

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