Back to search

World Disasters Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water

Global efforts to tackle climate change are currently failing to protect the people who are most at risk, according to new analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water shows that the countries most affected by climate-related disasters receive only a fraction of the funding that is available for climate change adaptation and thus struggle to protect people from the aggravating effects of climate change.

IFRC’s Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:

“Our first responsibility is to protect communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks.

“However, our research demonstrates that the world is collectively failing to do this. There is a clear disconnection between where the climate risk is greatest and where climate adaptation funding goes. This disconnection could very well cost lives.”

The failure to protect the people most vulnerable to climate change is especially alarming given the steady increase in the number of climate and weather-related disasters.

  • According to the World Disasters Report, the average number of climate and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35 per cent since the 1990s.
  • Over the past decade, 83 per cent of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events such as floods, storms, and heatwaves. Together, these disasters killed more than 410,000 people and affected a staggering 1.7 billion people.

The World Disasters Report also argues that the massive stimulus packages that are currently being developed around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are an opportunity to address and reduce climate vulnerability. A recovery that protects people and the planet would not only help to reduce today’s risks but would also make communities safer and more resilient to future disasters.

Smart financing – with a focus on early warning and anticipatory action to reduce risks and prevent disasters before they happen – and risk reduction measures would both play a major role in protecting the most exposed communities.

Climate adaptation work can’t take a back seat while the world is preoccupied with the pandemic: the two crises have to be tackled together.

“These disasters are already on the doorstep in every country around the world. We must significantly scale up investment in climate smart actions that strengthens risk reduction and preparedness, alongside climate-smart laws and policies.

“With challenges like these, international solidarity is not only a moral responsibility, but also the smart thing to do. Investing in resilience in the most vulnerable places is more cost-effective than to accept continued increases in the cost of humanitarian response, and contributes to a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for everyone.” (Source Climate change: New report shows global response is failing people in greatest need

About IFRC:

IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.

Did you know:

In 2019 there were 8 drought-related disasters affecting 16 countries and impacting 48 million people.  In the last decade 106 disasters triggered by droughts affected 66 countries and some 690.2 million people (EM-DAT).

  • Between 2010 and 2011, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and some parts of Djibouti were hit by the deadliest drought in the past ten years.
  • EM-DAT reported 20,000 direct deaths, while
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) research indicated a far higher number with a further 258,000 deaths attributable to the drought in southern and central Somalia (FAO et al, 2013).  In total, 22 million people were affected.
  • Since the 1960s, a total of 426 disasters driven by droughts in 117 countries killed over 2 million people and affected an average of 46 million people every year.
  • Almost half (49.5%) of all droughts took place in Africa, accounting for 14.2% of all disasters in Africa
  • The IPCC projects that the frequency and intensity of droughts will continue to rise, particularly in Africa (especially in southern Africa) and in Europe (the Mediterranean region).
  • Using a climate scenario that includes medium growth across population and income with only a gradual reduction in inequality, and assumes a continuation of trends in production, consumption and technological progress, it states that “the dryland population vulnerable to water stress, drought intensity and habitat degradation is projected to reach 178 million people by 2050 at 1.5°C warming, increasing to 220 million people at 2°C warming, and 277 million people at 3°C warming” (IPCC, 2019b). ( Data Extracted from the report) 

People and communities affected by drought can expect to face related challenges in food and water security, threats to their livelihoods such as the death of livestock, and health risks such as cholera and malaria. Drought can also lead to an increased risk of forest fires and their associated damage to the landscape as well as increased carbon emissions (IPCC, 2012)

 Further reading on drought , desertification and drought health impacts, disaster risk reduction from UNCCD Library

disasters report

  drought risk projections