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Natural Disasters in Africa and their Impact

Natural disasters are the primary reason people are forced to flee their homes. Last year an alarming number of 23.7 million people globally had to move because of the effects of devastating weather conditions. Sudden disasters like floods cause overnight forced movement, while slow-onset disasters like droughts also lead to people having to move when their livelihoods are destroyed. Whatever the reason, people are being displaced at an increasingly higher rate than ever before, and the situation is expected to worsen.

In 2021, sub-Saharan Africa recorded the largest number of internal displacements, as a result of climate change, in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia alone were forced to move, due to severe drought, some more than once.

Another failed rainy season spells even more strife for the region. When people move, their lives are disrupted. Mass movements lead to many challenges. Severe malnutrition, poor sanitation and inadequate or non-existent medical care will have a long-lasting impact on physical health and mental development. A crisis of already epidemic proportions will just get worse. 

Why is this happening?


Changing rainfall patterns, rising temperatures and extreme weather conditions have contributed to mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement over the past few years.

Global climate change leads to natural disasters and disrupts ecological, economic and social systems, but Africa is particularly vulnerable. In fact, it is estimated that by 2030, as many as 120 million extremely poor people (living on less than $1.90 per day) will be exposed to many more droughts, floods as well as extreme heat.

Unfairly, Africa bears the brunt of the negative impact of climate change, while it barely contributes to the changing climate – only 2-3% of global emissions are from Africa. As always, the poor are disproportionately affected and have little control. They suffer the effects of climate change most because they cannot afford the resources necessary to buffer and recover from their impact.

The Impact on Livelihoods


Climate change is a crisis for people who live off the land and are dependent on favourable (or at least stable) climate conditions to survive. The majority of the people in Africa are agriculturalists and pastoralists – people who eke out a living from the land. This makes them extremely vulnerable to climate change and disasters. When rivers dry up and animals die from thirst; or when floods destroy homes and crops, people have no choice but to leave to literally and figuratively look for greener pastures.

Most of these people end up in overcrowded refugee camps where the conditions are just as bad. Local governments are ill-prepared to assist, while humanitarian organisations are stretched to capacity in providing the basics (like shelter, food and water) for people to survive. 

IDPs face challenges that few of us can imagine. They are forcibly uprooted from their homes, have lost their belongings, are grieving the loss of loved ones, are fearful for their future and have no money or a means to earn an income. They arrive at a strange place, exhausted by their perilous journey and have to learn to survive. Sadly, approximately half of all IDPs are children who are even more traumatised because they cannot understand the situation and have no control over what is happening.

ARF Emergency Relief


African Relief Fund (ARF) has been working at the heart of the crisis for over twenty years. In this time though, we’ve never seen the numbers of IDPs grow as they have over the past two years.

ARF provides humanitarian aid to IDPs through our emergency relief and developmental programmes in Somalia, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Djibouti, Zimbabwe and Kenya. We provide people with essentials like food packs, water and medical assistance. To increase our reach and effectiveness we work with local governments, organisations and communities.

Through development and empowerment programmes, we also help IDPs rebuild their lives. These include education, skills training and orphan sponsorship.

To learn more about our emergency and developmental projects read here. To help save lives through emergency relief, please support our appeals and Emergency Aid Projects.