Facts and figures about water and natural disasters

Between 1960 and 2004, there has been a significant rise in water-related extreme events, such as floods, windstorms, drought and landslide.


Statistics from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium revealed that during the ten-year period from 1996 to 2005, about 80% of all natural disasters were of meteorological or hydrological origin.

For 1992–2001, losses from water-related disasters were estimated globally at US $446 billion, accounting for about 65% of economic loss due to all natural disasters.
The increase of affected people since the start of the 21st century is alarming: from 2000 to 2004, 1,942 water-related disasters claiming the lives of 427,045 people and more than 1.5 billion affected people were reported in the CRED disaster database.

Between 1990 and 2004 the distribution of water-related disasters by region was: Asia 38%, Americas 25%, Africa 21%, Europe 11% and Oceania 5%.

Floods accounted for over 65% of people affected by natural disasters, while famine affected nearly 20%.

Between 1973 and 1997 an average of 66 million people a year suffered flood damage, making flooding the most damaging of all natural disasters.

From 1991 to 2000, drought has been responsible for over 280,000 deaths and has cost tens of millions of US dollars in damage.

Developing countries are disproportionately affected by disasters; their losses are about 5 times higher per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) than those of rich countries.

The Hyogo Framework, adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) by 168 delegations in January 2005, is a groundbreaking international commitment to implement a global disaster reduction agenda. Building on numerous prior studies and reports, it articulates a worldwide consensus that disaster risk reduction is an integral part of sustainable human development, not a side issue of limited, technical interest or concern.

Information from:
1st United Nations World Water Development Report ‘Water for People, Water for Life’ (2003)
the 2nd United Nations World Water Development Report, ‘Water, a shared responsibility’ (2006)
publication ‘Let Our Children Teach Us!’ [PDF format – 2,73 MB]
Source: UNESCO Water Portal, October 2006

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