Floods that hit Iran in 2019 “triggered more internal displacement than any other event at the regional level during that period,” a new report says.
The report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reveals the rise in internally displaced persons (IDPs) since 2010.
Ten years after the start of the Arab uprisings across the region, a total of 12.4m people are thought to have been internally displaced. Globally, the number of forcefully displaced persons passed 80 million by mid-2020.
Whilst the majority of these internal displacements are the result of conflict (28.6m people), the report also details how displacements from disasters are on the rise.
In Iran, flash floods in March and April 2019 killed an estimated 78 people and destroyed/damaged 179,000 homes, 1,200 schools, and 70 hospitals and health centres. As of September 2019, 365,000 people had been displaced and were living in temporary shelter due to the flooding.
4,893 cities and villages were affected, particularly in the worst-hit areas of Lorestan, Khuzestan and Golestan.
Shortly after the floods - which received scant attention in the international media - the Trump administration announced that it would not renew sanction waivers that allowed eight countries to import Iranian oil.
Iran accused the US of blocking relief to victims of the flooding.
"There could be as many as 200 million people [globally] overtaken by disruptions of monsoon systems and other rainfall regimes..."
Iran has been experiencing a range of volatile climate conditions. The year before the flood, the Iranian parliament’s Research Centre issued a report that said almost half of the Iranian population (i.e about 37 million people) were at risk from severe water shortages during the summer of 2018.
Referring to the internal displacement catastrophe more widely, IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak said “the scale of both internal and cross-border displacement is unprecedented in some countries. Half of Syria’s pre-war population has been displaced at least once, with some families having moved 25 times over the course of the country’s ten-year civil war.”
“Many of the region’s 7.8 million refugees and asylum seekers were in fact IDPs before they made the difficult choice to leave their country in search of a safer future.”
The figures from Iran are suggestive of a global trend. Norman Myers from Oxford University has said that when global warming takes hold “there could be as many as 200 million people [globally] overtaken by disruptions of monsoon systems and other rainfall regimes, by droughts of unprecedented severity and duration, and by sea-level rise and coastal flooding.”
The latest report highlights that the number of IDPs is rising. If the world’s consumption of fossil fuels continues, as it appears it is, the rate of climate refugees will accelerate and overshadow the millions who have been displaced as a direct result of conflict in the Middle East since 2010.
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