Environmental Refugees

Today the world is experiencing more refugees from environmental damage than armed conflict. Generations of deforestation and poor soil management and now too little or too much rain impact the ability for people to feed their families. Natural disasters force people to flee their homelands and cause hundreds of thousands of untimely deaths. Now climate change is beginning to transform life on Earth with seasons shifting, temperatures climbing and sea levels rising.


Children are more likely than adults to perish during natural disasters or to succumb to malnutrition, injuries or disease in the aftermath. Over 96% of all recent disaster-related deaths worldwide occurred in developing countries. Again, the poorest of the poor, in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are most heavily impacted.


Of course, relief supplies are typically distributed to the areas affected by natural disasters. However, at the same time we provide aid to disaster victims, it is striking how danger and damage are becoming a norm, something that is routinely expected.


Why should we care?

  • Natural disasters can affect any of us, even though not all of us are able to recover at the same pace due to economic and social conditions.
  • Access to clean drinking water and food are a human right. Being aware of this helps us seek assistance for those who are deprived of this right.
  • Unless we reduce the damaging impact many human activities have on the environment, there is no guarantee for a safe future for our children, as climate change is likely to continue causing weather extremes and natural disasters.


Fast Facts


  • It is estimated that there will be 50 million environmental refugees by year 2020 and 150 million by 2050, mainly due to the effects of coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and agricultural disruption.
  • About 18 million people in coastal Bangladesh are threatened as the sea levels are rising.
  • Kenya’s annual droughts for the past two years have caused a severe food and water crisis, affecting over 13 million people.
  • Floods in Pakistan have affected 20 million people and swept away 2.2m hectares of farmland; food prices have gone up, and millions of people have been left homeless.


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