Addressing Disaster Displacement in Disaster Risk Reduction Policy and Practice: A Checklist

Submitted by Sohara Mehroze Shachi | published 1st Jul 2021 | last updated 10th Oct 2022
Front cover photo: © Norwegian Refugee Council /Adrienne Surprenant 2017 (Somalia). Children of pastoralists in Somalia displaced by drought are taught for free as their parents cannot afford school fees.


Disaster displacement, a common consequence of disasters, concerns situations where people are obliged to leave their homes or places of habitual residence due to disaster impacts or in order to mitigate an impending risk, including impacts and risks associated with climate change.

Climate change is projected to increase disaster displacement as extreme weather events become more frequent and intense. Other risk factors, such as rapid and unplanned urbanisation, poverty, conflict, weak governance, and environmental degradation can also drive the phenomenon and heighten the needs of those displaced.

The ‘Addressing disaster displacement in disaster risk reduction (DRR) policy and practice’ Checklist highlights core elements of effective disaster displacement action that DRR policy makers and practitioners may consider when aligning national and local action with the four priorities of the Sendai Framework.

The Sendai Framework recognises disaster displacement as an important concern and identifies actions to prepare for responses that reduce potential humanitarian needs and strengthen the resilience of those affected until they are able to find durable solutions to their displacement.

The Checklist is based on the UNDRR Words into Action Guideline Disaster Displacement: How to Reduce Risk, Address Impacts and Strengthen Resilience, which provides guidance for including disaster displacement within new or revised DRR strategies in line with Targets (B) and (E) of the Sendai Framework.

*This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text. 


Priority 1: Understanding disaster displacement

The section provides a checklist responding to the following question: Do disaster risk assessments include information on past, present and future displacement risk?

Understanding disaster displacement requires the collection and analysis of displacement data before, during and after the disaster and subsequent displacement occurs, or is expected to occur. Disaster displacement patterns often mirror human mobility in times without a large-scale disaster, including across international borders. Such analysis can be undertaken as part of comprehensive disaster and climate risk assessments.

Priorities 2 and 3: Strengthen governance of disaster displacement

The section provides a checklist responding to the following questions: Are national and local mechanisms in place to coordinate preparedness for and response to disaster displacement? Are efforts to reduce disaster displacement risk embedded in broader DRR action?

Provisions to reduce disaster displacement risk, respond to disaster displacement impacts and strengthen the resilience of people displaced by disasters should be included within wider efforts to embed DRR in relevant laws, regulations and policies. National and local DRR strategies, plans and other policies are also essential tools in ensuring responses to disaster displacement risk are coordinated and complementary and, in turn help achieve Sendai Framework Target (E).

Priorities 3 and 4: Prepare for disaster displacement

The section provides a checklist responding to the following questions: Are displacement preparedness and contingency plans developed and operational? Do preparedness procedures establish inclusive measures and social safety-net mechanisms to meet the long-term needs of displaced people? Have actions been taken to strengthen risk knowledge, early warning systems, and evacuations?

Regularly updated disaster preparedness and contingency plans are essential for reducing the impacts of disaster displacement and ensuring an effective response to it. Operating procedures and coordination mechanisms must be put in place in advance to meet the short and longer term needs of displaced people. Preparedness measures include improving the risk knowledge of people at risk of displacement to enable informed decision making and compliance with warnings.

Priority 4: Respond to disaster displacement 

The section provides a checklist responding to the following questions: Do disaster response plans and procedures address the specific needs of displaced people? Is the required information and data available to support displaced people during disaster response phases?

An effective response to disaster displacement requires meeting the specific needs of displaced people, in particular of the most vulnerable groups, as well as of the communities that host them. The dignity, safety and protection of all must be ensured during the evacuation and throughout displacement. Hosting displaced people often creates additional humanitarian needs for a community; meeting these needs can help to allay potential tensions between displaced people and their hosts.

Priority 4: Support resilience of displaced and host populations

The section provides a checklist responding to the following question: Are support mechanisms in place to build the resilience of displaced and host populations?

Building the resilience of displaced people requires that temporary settlements and camps are integrated into broader DRR programmes and development plans and initiatives. As most displaced people are hosted by families or find rented accommodation, targeted support also needs to reach dispersed populations and their hosts to strengthen their resilience and prevent protracted displacement.

Priorities 1 and 4: Finding durable solutions

The section provides a checklist responding to the following questions: Do cross-sector coordination mechanisms for recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction help displaced people find durable solutions? Is the required information and data available to support disaster displaced people’s ability to find durable solutions?

Durable solutions refer to displaced populations no longer having any specific assistance and protection needs linked to their displacement, and being able enjoy their human rights without discrimination on account of their displacement. Measures to help displaced people achieve durable solutions should be coordinated and integrated across sectors engaged in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases, recognising the displaced as a disproportionately affected group with specific needs that may face challenges in accessing services and the benefits of development and reconstruction programmes.

Priorities 1, 2, 3 and 4: Addressing disaster displacement at the regional level

The section provides a checklist responding to the following questions: Is there a coherent regional governance approach in place to support efforts to address disaster displacement? Is information on disaster displacement gathered, analysed and shared within and across levels?

Regional DRR coordination structures and protocols provide opportunities to share information, effective practices and lessons learned on preparing for and responding to disaster displacements. Regional, sub-regional and bilateral strategies, mutual assistance agreements and cooperation mechanisms can support governments to reduce disaster displacement risk, address the specific needs of displaced people and strengthen resilience. As cross-border displacement usually takes place within a region, risk reduction, preparedness and response should be coordinated across the region to ensure a coherent approach.

Further resources