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The human cost of natural disasters 2015: a global perspective (2015)


Between 1994 and 2013, EM-DAT recorded 6,873 natural disasters - flloodings, storms, earthquakes, droughts - worldwide, which claimed 1.35 million lives or almost 68,000 lives on average each year. In addition, 218 million people were affected by natural disasters on average per annum during this 20-year period.

The USA and China recorded the most disasters between 1994 and 2013, due mainly to their size, varied landmasses and high population densities. Among the continents, Asia bore the brunt of disasters, with 3.3 billion people affected in China and India alone. If data are standardized, however, to reflect the numbers of people affected per 100,000 head of population, then Eritrea and Mongolia were the worst-affected countries in the world. Haiti suffered the largest number of people killed both in absolute terms and relative to the size of its population due to the terrible toll of the 2010 earthquake.

Analysis of EM-DAT data also shows how income levels impact on disaster death tolls. On average, more than three times as many people died per disaster in low-income countries (332 deaths) than in high-income nations (105 deaths). A similar pattern is evident when low- and lower-middle-income countries are grouped together and compared to high- and upper-middle-income countries. Taken together, higher-income countries experienced 56% of disasters but lost 32% of lives, while lower-income countries experienced 44% of disasters but suffered 68% of deaths. This demonstrates that levels of economic development, rather than exposure to hazards per se, are major determinants of mortality.

Reference information

Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters


Disaster risk exposure, economic development, population growth

Climate impacts

Extreme Temperatures, Water Scarcity, Flooding, Sea Level Rise, Droughts, Storms, Ice and Snow


Observations and Scenarios


Disaster Risk Reduction, Financial

Geographic characterisation


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