- Documents and publications
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.
For disasters since 2000, georeferencing has found that in low-income countries, an average of 130 people died per million living in disaster-affected areas, compared to just 18 in high-income countries. That means people exposed to natural hazards in the poorest nations were more than seven times more likely to die than equivalent populations in the richest nations.
Such data demonstrate that while absolute economic losses might be concentrated in high-income countries, the human cost of disasters falls overwhelmingly on low and lower-middle income countries: vulnerability to risk and degrees of suffering are determined by levels of economic development, rather than simple exposure to natural hazards per se.