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Apr 2021

Flood exposure and poverty

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Mar 2021

Around 2.2bn people or 29% of the world’s total population live in areas that would experience some level of inundation during a one in a 100-year flood event according to a recent study by the World Bank.
This study provides a global estimate of the number of people who face the risk of intense fluvial, pluvial, or coastal flooding and suggests that the exposure of people to flood risk is substantial.
About 1.46bn people are directly exposed to inundation depths of over 0.15 meters, which would pose significant risk to lives, especially of vulnerable population groups.
Of the 1.47bn people who are exposed to flood risk, 89% live in low- and middle-income countries - 132m people are estimated to live in both extreme poverty and in high flood risk areas.
While flood risks are a near universal threat, East Asia and South Asia stand out in this context. The largest number of flood-exposed people live in East and South Asia (1.36bn).
When considering poverty among the flood exposed population, risks are largest in sub-Saharan Africa. At least 71m people in sub-Saharan Africa are estimated to live in both extreme poverty and significant flood risk – thus making them particularly vulnerable to prolonged adverse impacts on livelihoods and wellbeing.
Globally, between 132m and 587m poor people are exposed to flood risks depending on which poverty definition is used. About 1.2bn flood-exposed people live in lower- and upper middle-income countries.
When flood exposure and poverty coincide the risk to livelihoods are most severe. The most devastating long-term consequences of floods are often experienced by the poorest households – those who have next to no savings and limited access to support systems.
Flood risks are constantly evolving. There is evidence that the process of coastal urbanisation is accelerating the increase of flood risk. With safe areas already occupied, new settlements and developments are occurring increasingly in high-risk areas. As spatial planning and infrastructure investments struggle to keep up with the pace of urbanisation, risks build up. A 
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