Number of deaths caused by drought 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 Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters tracks the number of deaths caused by drought worldwide. Data they published ranked the 1928 drought in the People’s Republic of China as the deadliest drought during the period between 1900 and 2014, causing the deaths of an estimated three million individuals. 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 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.

It is estimated that in the period from 1900 to 2013, the United States suffered 20 billion U.S. dollars in economic loss due to a major drought in 2012. China suffered 13.8 billion U.S. dollars of loss in 1994. Other natural disasters that often cause death are tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms and wildfires. In the United States in 2012, there were 143 deaths caused by tropical cyclone. Thirteen people died of wildfire that year. The United States ranks second on the list of countries with the most natural disasters in 2011, due in great part to the 14 meteorological disasters that occurred that year.

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