Climate Change: Informing Planning Against Risks from a Human Mobility Perspective

The bustling port city of Beira in Mozambique and remote outlying villages were particularly hard hit by the wind, rains, and flood waters from the aftermath of the cyclone. Photo: IOM/Amanda Nero

The relationships between human mobility, climatic variations and disaster are becoming increasingly apparent. As ever-higher shares of disaster displacement have been reported due to extreme weather events, this year’s World Environment Day provides a reminder that disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning and management to support human mobility in a changing climate should no longer be deferred.

 According to International Organization of Migration (IOM) Director General António Vitorino, in the most extreme cases, the effects of the climate crisis have depleted sources of income, while food and water security are increasingly undermined, compounding poverty and deprivation.

Extreme events such as floods, strong winds, torrential rains, cyclones and landslides are increasingly permeating discussions on national strategies for disaster risk reduction. Frameworks such as The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement have set out principles to mitigate hazard events and the consequences of slow-onset climate change while governance systems and regional protocols have been established to support the internally displaced by managing routes internally.

To support national and subnational authorities in DRR efforts, the IOM Global Data Institute’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) produces data that can inform analysis on the climate risk vulnerabilities and exposure that displaced communities experience during various climate events. These have, in different ways, contributed to national disaster risk reduction efforts from a human mobility perspective. DTM gathers data on displacement and population mobility to provide critical information to decision-makers and responders during humanitarian crises.

For example, in collaboration with Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management (INGD), DTM conducted a Disaster Risk Assessment (Hazard Mapping) in two provinces – Manica and Sofala. The mapping of hazard events detailed how multiple, sequential or even combined hazard events in the two provinces were affecting localities. Degrees of proneness to different natural hazards were calculated on a locality basis, giving key metrics on areas in Manica and Sofala that are most exposed to climate impacts. Additionally, surveys were conducted with communities and vulnerable groups within the two provinces, focusing on physical access constraints, service provision and evacuation planning, among other features.

The assessment found that 91 per cent of localities (175) in Manica and Sofala were prone to at least one type of disaster, out of which a little over half (52 per cent) were likely to flood. Furthermore, 22 per cent of localities in Manica and 29 per cent in Sofala are at either a High or Very High risk of flooding. Risks of strong winds and rains were also pervasive, with three quarters of localities prone to wind and rainfall.

Physical access constraints and evacuation planning was also analyzed, with a staggering 39 per cent of localities without a designated evacuation route. Although the number of buildings available to shelter internally displaced persons (IDPs) was similar, there were discrepancies in evacuation centres capacity, with Sofala having over twice the evacuation/emergency shelter capacity compared to Manica. Power outages led to about half of the localities reporting no access to electricity, with water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) being the second most pressing concern among IDPs (77 per cent of localities have access to drinking water).

The assessments are crucial in mitigating disaster risk for inhabitants of Manica and Sofala as they provide vital information that supports in identifying strategies to reduce vulnerabilities and exposure.

Burundi is one of the countries with the highest share of disaster-related displacement. In February 2022, 92 per cent of the over 84,000 IDPs were due to disasters. Over the past four years, DTM’s Emergency Tracking Tool has been employed to gather data on the 520 recorded disaster events that triggered internal displacement across all 18 provinces in Burundi. Data on human mobility and damage is utilized to inform both policy and response across the country, illustrating how disaster displacement data can enrich the approaches that can be taken to manage disaster risk, and better inform stakeholders about the logistical, infrastructural and socioeconomic challenges that accompany preparedness and responses to disaster displacement.

Since April 2021, DTM Uganda has been regularly producing Multi-Hazard Response outputs in collaboration with the Disaster-Risk Reduction (DRR) Platform and partners. These outputs monitor how climatic variations are occurring in relation to usual forecasts, giving insights on Early Warnings for expected prolonged droughts or likelihood of flashfloods/heavy storms in districts across the country. They also synthetize information on the differing impacts the climatic events are having on populations in different areas.

Data has shown that larger proportions of children are increasingly impacted by disaster displacement in certain districts in Uganda, prompting a need for a targeted, strengthened engagement in ensuring access to education. DTM’s priority needs assessments are carried out at the district level and can support in informing a targeted and localized response to specific community needs.

The share of affected women in Uganda has also been increasing (from 56 per cent in October 2021, to 69 per cent in December 2021), demonstrating the growing importance of gender-sensitive planning for disaster-risk reduction. Collecting, analysing and disseminating gender-disaggregated data is critical for proper planning. Gender considerations in shelter management, for example, are required to mitigate vulnerabilities to gender-based violence (GBV). They are also fundamental to understanding the decisions following disaster displacement in contexts of recovery, and can capture the likely areas where marginalization due to gender, race, age or socioeconomic status can be detrimental or delay opportunities for relieving the long term impacts of climatic shocks for displaced populations.

It is clear that each context requires a specific approach to monitoring climatic shocks and their impacts. Working with existing governmental and municipal systems to plan for needs and deliver services to populations affected by the spectrum of climatic events that trigger displacement will be a growing priority for years to come. DTM’s approaches in Mozambique, Burundi and Uganda are only some of the examples of how IOM is engaging Governments and partners in considering disaster-risk reduction from a human mobility perspective.

To learn more about the Displacement Tracking Matrix, visit


Written by Alexandra Bate, DTM Associate, IOM, and edited by Hong Tran, DTM Associate, IOM

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