Skewed mitigation and increasing flood risk

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by Team RPM-MF Sep 21, 2022

Despite the situation being continuously exacerbated by climate change and unplanned urbanization, the most vulnerable of the 1.81 billion flood-affected persons fail to get prioritized under risk reduction programs due to skewed selection criteria.

The study

Flood exposure and poverty in 188 countries – an article published recently in Nature Communications by Jun RentschlerMelda Salhab, and Bramka Arga Jafino revises the October 2020 estimate of people directly exposed to flood depths greater than 0.15 m in a 1-in-100-year flood event across the globe from 1.47 to 1.81 billion – 23% of the world population – using updated and state-of-the-art data on fluvialpluvial, and coastal hazards, together with subnational poverty.

The authors expect the exposure scenario to be exacerbated by climate change and unplanned urbanization in flood zones with the possibility of reversing years of progress in poverty reduction and development.  The study also estimates that 170 million extremely poor people face flood risk and its devastating long-term consequences.

Poor worst hit

Flood risk is substantial in low and middle-income countries posing a significant risk to lives and livelihoods.

  • 89% of the 1.81 billon persons exposed to flood risk live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • 1% of the flood-exposed people live on less than $5.50 a day.
  • 2% of the flood-exposed people live in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day).
  • 4 in every 10 people exposed to flood risk globally live in poverty.

South and East Asia

Though the risk is global and affects 188 countries, most flood-exposed people live in South and East Asia.

  • At 668 million people, East Asia has the highest number of flood-exposed people, corresponding to about 28% of its total population.
  • 24 billion or 68.5% of flood-exposed people live in South and East Asia.
  • China and India account for over one-third of global exposure.
  • In several South and East Asian subnational areas, more than two-thirds of the population are exposed to significant flood risk.

Flood and poverty

The cocktail of flood exposure and poverty results in a severe risk to livelihoods.

  • With no savings and limited access to support systems, the poorest households experience the most devastating long-term consequences of floods.
  • Flooding causes the most detrimental impacts on livelihoods and well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where high poverty persists.
  • Individual countries, risks are often concentrated in certain regions, including low-lying river basins or coastlines.

Poor ignored

Poorer regions and countries most in need of protection are often ignored due to rationalization based on the monetary value of elements at risk.


Systematic risk mitigation measures are crucial to prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods and the reversal of development progress.

Climate change and risky urbanization patterns are expected to further aggravate flood risk.  With safe areas already occupied, new settlements and developments are increasingly spilling into high-risk areas. As spatial planning and infrastructure investments struggle to keep up with the pace of urbanization, risks build up and are locked in.

Low-income countries are disproportionately exposed to flood risks, and more vulnerable to disastrous long-term impacts. Identification of the scale of the needs and priority regions for flood risk mitigation measures can be utilized for facilitating prioritization and comprehensive action to safeguard livelihoods and prevent prolonged adverse impacts on development.

( With courtesy  from Risk Prevention Mitigation and Management Forum)

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