The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 224: People in Harm’s Way Flood Exposure and Poverty in 189 Countries

People in Harm’s Way Flood Exposure and Poverty in 189 Countries


2 February 2021


Flooding is among the most prevalent natural hazards affecting people around the world. This study provides a global estimate of the number of people who face the risk of intense fluvial, pluvial, or coastal flooding. The findings suggest that 1.47 billion people, or 19 percent of the world population, are directly exposed to substantial risks during 1-in-100 year flood events. The majority of flood exposed people, about 1.36 billion, are located in South and East Asia; China (329 million) and India (225 million) account for over a third of global exposure. Of the 1.47 billion people who are exposed to flood risk, 89 percent live in low- and middle-income countries. Of the 132 million people who are estimated to live in both extreme poverty (under $1.9 per day) and in high flood risk areas, 55 percent are in Sub-Saharan Africa. About 587 million people face high flood risk, while living on less than $5.5 per day. These findings are based on high-resolution flood hazard and population maps that enable global coverage, as well as poverty estimates from the World Bank’s Global Monitoring Database of harmonized household surveys. 

This paper is a product of the Climate Change Group and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, and a background paper for the 2020 Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report. It is part of a larger effort by the World Bank to provide open access to its research and make a contribution to development policy discussions around the world. Policy Research Working Papers are also posted on the Web at http://www.worldbank.org/prwp. The authors may be contacted at jrentschler@worldbank.org

Authors: Jun Rentschler, Melda Salhab

Download CASA Working Paper 224 (file size 1.2MB, file format PDF)