Number of deaths caused by majors droughts worldwide from 1900 to 2016*

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Number of deaths
China (1928)3,000,000
Bangladesh (1943)1,900,000
India (1942)1,500,000
India (1965)1,500,000
India (1900)1,250,000
Soviet Union (1921)1,200,000
China (1920)500,000
Ethiopia (May 1983)300,000
Sudan, (April 1983)150,000
Ethiopia (December 1973)100,000
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About This Statistic

This statistic illustrates deaths due to drought worldwide from 1900 to 2016*. The dry period of April 1983 in Sudan caused around 150,000 deaths.

Deaths due to drought worldwide

The 1928 drought in the People’s Republic of China was the deadliest drought during the period between 1900 and 2016, causing the death of an estimated three million people. This drought in the Chinese provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Gansu brought about crop failure and widespread famine. It lasted from 1928 to 1930 and the effects were exacerbated by insufficient or inefficient government relief and aide.

Though China’s drought of 1928 is listed as the deadliest drought event, India’s drought of May 1987 is reported to have affected over 300 million individuals. During this weather disaster, India’s northern grain lands were hit hardest, cutting deeply into grain and milk production. Less than a third of the country received normal rainfall that year—rainfall deficiency was at 26 percent—but in this instance the government was able to prevent much suffering by distributing stored food.

The costliest drought occurred in the United States in 2012. The U.S. suffered an economic loss of about 20 billion U.S. dollars.

Other deadly natural disasters are tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms and wildfires. 52 people died because of a tropical cyclone in the U.S. in 2016. 32 people died of wildfire that year. The United States ranks second on the list of countries with the most natural disasters in 2015, due in great part to the 13 meteorological disasters that occurred that year.

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