In the past decade, most natural disasters have been floods. In 2019 alone, out of 308 natural disasters that took place, 127 of them have been floods (IFRC 2020). Floods in 2019 affected 69 countries, killed 1,586 people, and displaced 10 million more (IDMC, 2019). The highest numbers of floods in 2019 were in Asia with 42 floods across 22 countries while Africa experienced 38 floods across 21 countries. The economic toll of floods is also significant: in the first half of 2019 alone, flood losses were estimated at around 33.7 billion US dollars (Aon, 2019).
Floods can cause widespread damage and devastation including injury, death, loss of livelihoods, ruined or destroyed structures and infrastructure, lost assets and fracturing or uprooting of communities (IFRC 2020). Flooding can also have wide-ranging direct and indirect health impacts. These include immediate impacts such as drowning, injuries and hypothermia, as well as indirect effects in the medium and long term such as food insecurity leading to a rise in malnutrition (FAO, 2018), increased waterborne infectious diseases, mental health problems, respiratory diseases and allergies. Recurrent flooding may also discourage long-term investments by governments and the private sector as these investments are continually, and literally, washed away.
Coastal ecosystems and low-lying areas will experience more coastal flooding events. With more and more people and assets concentrated in coastal areas, the IPCC expects increasing exposure to coastal risks such as flooding, erosion, sea level rise and submergence (IPCC, 2014b). Floods are predicted to increase with climate change.
Mangroves have helped to reduce hazard exposure by reducing wave heights and retaining sediments, thereby decreasing the impacts of flooding and erosion (Losada et al 2018: 5). A 2018 global study concludes: that mangroves have reduced flooding that affected 18 million people and without mangroves, 39% more people would be flooded annually, and that flood damages would increase by 16% and USD 82 billion annually (Losada et al. 2018:31-33).
Dunes can also act as natural dikes that reduce exposure to flooding, and marshlands and swamps can also absorb water, reducing the impact of flooding.
Source: IFRC. 2020. World Disasters Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water. Geneva: IFRC. URL: https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/world-disaster-report-2020