Bangladesh has become the second most risky country in South Asia for displacement of people due to disasters, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said in a report released on Friday in Geneva, urging for more investment in coping mechanisms to reduce vulnerability of the people.
At least 78,000 people became victim of internal displacement in Bangladesh during 2018 due mainly to natural disasters, 44,000 of them because of river bank erosion, said IDMC in the Global Report on Internal Displacement.
Internal displacement is an increasingly urban phenomenon, the report said, adding that conflicts, climate shocks and large-scale development projects often drive people from rural to urban areas. Dhaka is the preferred destination for many IDPs fleeing climate change impacts in coastal regions of Bangladesh.
About 300 new displacements were recorded owing to conflicts and political violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts last year, according to the report.
‘It is the same countries affected year after year and, while the relative impacts and resilience to respond varies hugely across the region, resources and coping mechanisms are being eroded over time. We must invest more heavily in strategies that reduce people’s exposure and vulnerability to the risks that cause internal displacement,’ IDMC director Alexandra Bilak said.
Leveraging the positive role that local government ‘can play in finding solutions to displacement will be key to addressing this challenge in the future,’ she said.
There were 28 million new displacements associated with conflicts and disasters across 148 countries and territories [throughout the world] in 2018, according to the report.
‘The number of people living in internal displacement is now the highest it has ever been. Unresolved conflicts, new waves of violence and extreme weather events were responsible for most of the new displacements we saw in 2018,’ noted Bilak.
Almost the two-thirds of the internal displacements were triggered by disasters (61 per cent), compared to conflicts and violence (39 per cent) in 2018.
The vast majority of the new displacements in Bangladesh are triggered by sudden-onset meteorological disasters such as floods, tropical storms and landslides, according to IMDC.
The number of new displacements triggered by conflicts and violence is relatively small, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been living in protracted displacement, many of them as a result of conflicts associated with Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.
The report mentioned that about 151,000 urdu-speaking internally displaced people were living in camp-like conditions across 116 informal urban settlements as of the end of 2017, the largest being Geneva Camp in Dhaka where about 30,000 people lived in cramped conditions.
Bangladesh, a low-lying Ganges-Brahamputra river delta, is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, in part because of its geography. Low level of socioeconomic development, however, is also a major contributor to disaster risks, as is population density. With an average of 1,252 people living per square kilometre in 2016, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
Nineteen coastal districts are home to millions of people, many of them living in poor quality housing, who are at risk of being displaced by sea level rise. Families whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and aquaculture are particularly exposed because they live near the coast or rivers and may be displaced several times a year, the report said.
Repeated displacement triggered by regular sudden-onset disasters causes a range of negative outcomes, including livelihood loss, lack of educational opportunities and increased risk of health problems such as water-borne and infectious diseases. Displaced women are also at higher risk of gender-based violence, mentioned the IDMC report.
According to some projections, more than 35 million people from coastal areas are at risk of displacement by 2050, said the IDMC.
India has the highest level of displacement associated with disasters in South Asia in absolute terms, according to the report.
The IDMC drew the estimates from local and international media reports, disaster assessments conducted by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and reports from the Bangladesh shelter cluster.
It observed that collecting comprehensive information on internal displacement in Bangladesh tended to be difficult. ‘Information is generally more readily available at times of significant crisis.’
It is also challenging to collect data on protracted displacement associated with conflicts, said IMDC, adding that they were often politically sensitive and the areas where IDPs lived tended to be difficult to access.
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