Disaster Displacement in Asia and the Pacific: A Business Case for Investment in Prevention and Solutions

Internal Displacement Monitoring Center and the Asian Development Bank, 2022 



This report provides the latest evidence on the scale and impacts of disaster displacement in the Asia and Pacific region and proposes actions to support prevention, response, and recovery. 

Main findings: 

  • The Asia and Pacific region accounts for most global disaster displacement, and the scale of displacement is projected to increase with climate change. More than 225 million internal displacements were reported during 2010−2021, equivalent to 78 percent of the global total during this period. Climate change is making some hazards in the region more frequent and intense, and as more people settle in hazard-prone areas, it is likely that disaster displacement will increase in the future.  
  • Weather-related hazards were responsible for 95 percent of all disaster displacements across the region during 2010−2021. Weather-related hazards displaced 213.5 million people across the region during 2010−2021, including 113.6 million internal displacements due to floods (mostly in urban coastal areas) and 98.2 million internal displacements due to storms. Geophysical events (earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions) accounted for 5 percent of all disaster displacements across the region during 2010−2021. Recorded internal displacements due to slow-onset hazards such as riverbank erosion, extreme temperatures, droughts, and glacial melt account for just 0.3 percent of the total, but this is a significant underestimate, given the lack of data on slow-onset hazards. 
  • East Asia and Southeast Asia had the highest number of disaster displacements—two-thirds of the total—closely followed by South Asia. All three subregions are densely populated and highly exposed to various hazards. Pacific island states are exposed to the greatest displacement risk relative to their population size.  
  • The cost of disasters in the region is estimated to be several hundred billion dollars each year. Annual economic losses caused by disasters in the Asia and Pacific region are estimated to be around US$780 billion as of 2021, equivalent to 2.5 percent of the regional gross domestic product (GDP). In the worst climate change scenario, these losses will increase to US$1.4 trillion by 2059, and will disproportionally affect the economies of Pacific small island states. 
  • Displacement tends to exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities and reinforce social inequalities. Poor households, children and youth, elderly people, LGBTIQ+ people, people with disabilities, and indigenous people are disproportionately affected by disaster displacement. 
  • Pre-emptive movements or evacuations are life-saving measures undertaken to avoid or mitigate the impacts of an anticipated hazard. The effectiveness of pre-emptive evacuations, however, depends on the responsiveness of people to evacuation orders, which varies depending on the hazard and perceived risk.  
  • Investment in sustainable development and taking early action to address internal displacement will be more effective and less costly than relying on humanitarian aid in the long term. Robust data on the scale, duration, and severity of disaster displacement —as well as its impacts on people and economies—will help guide actions to mitigate the negative consequences and realize potential opportunities for risk reduction. The urban nature of displacement highlights the key role that urban planning and municipal administrations and services can play in preventive action and improved response. Rather than relying on humanitarian response, efforts should be made to take pre-emptive action through community resilience-building, investing in disaster risk reduction, early warning systems, and climate action. 
  • Resettlement projects, whether done pre-emptively or in response to a disaster, can increase the risk of impoverishment for affected communities. It is necessary to assess the complexity and costs involved, support livelihoods and community cohesion, involve communities in decision-making, and ensure they are provided with adequate and affordable housing. 
  • There has been considerable progress across the region to develop and implement disaster displacement policies. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction set the global agenda for addressing natural and human-made hazards to reduce the impact of disasters on lives, livelihoods, and economies. Most countries in the region have adopted new or revised policies and strategies that incorporate the globally agreed goals and priorities. 

The report calls for expanded action to effectively mitigate the impact of disaster displacement on individuals, societies, and economies, and proposes the following actions: 

  • Undertake systematic data collection and analysis on disaster displacement to better understand its scale and its impacts on people and economies. 
  • Develop national policy frameworks on disaster displacement to ensure immediate, comprehensive, and inclusive support to IDPs. 
  • Invest in the planning and financing of durable solutions to disaster displacement, including options for return to areas of origin, or integration in host communities or other areas. 
  • Assess the risk of future disaster displacement and its potential consequences on people and economies to develop more effective, comprehensive, and inclusive prevention plans and allocate adequate resources in vulnerable areas.  
  • Strengthen regional collaboration on disaster displacement and foster the sharing of knowledge, experience, and expertise across Asia and the Pacific.