|Population||UN Population Division (as of 2016)|
|Number of IDPs (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Disasters)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|Refugees||UNHCR (as of 2016)|
|Displacement type||IDPs (Stock)|
|Geographical disaggregation||Country/territory - admin 0|
|Frequency of reporting||No update|
|Disaggregation on sex||No|
|Disaggregation on age||No|
|Data triangulation||No triangulation|
|Data on settlement elsewhere||No|
|Data on returns||No|
|Data on local integration||No|
|Data on deaths||No|
|Data on births||No|
IDMC’s estimate relates to people who were displaced by conflict between 1996-2006 and remain unable or unwilling to return to their homes due to unresolved land and property issues, insecurity and lack of assistance.Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 36 KB)
Nepal is a landlocked Himalayan country located between northern India and southern China. Around 82 per cent of its population of 28.2 million live in rural areas. Most internal displacement in the country is related to the risk and impacts of disasters caused by natural hazards on the exposed and vulnerable population. This includes earthquakes, riverine and glacial lake outburst floods, landslides and forest fires. Following a decade of civil war from 1996 to 2006 and ongoing political instability, a major earthquake disaster in 2015 displaced millions of people, and progress towards reconstruction and durable solutions has been slow. Past and planned development projects, including hydroelectric power dams, have further augmented displacement in the country.
Nepal’s population, 86 per cent of which lives in rural areas, is highly exposed to a wide range of natural and human-made hazards. Eighty-two per cent of the economically active population work in agriculture, fishing or forestry, all of which are highly susceptible to environmental hazards. An average of 35 percent of permanent houses in Nepalese districts were exposed to a high-risk earthquake zone for a 100‐year return period. The population growth rate is 2.3 per cent per year overall and as high as 4 per cent in metropolitan Kathmandu.
Between 2008 and 2016, disasters brought on by sudden-onset hazards caused almost 3.1 million displacements, with relatively rare earthquakes and frequent heavy rains, floods and landslides in mountainous areas being the most important hazards. Flood risk will continue to increase due to glacial melting linked to climate change. Tens of thousands of people are exposed to the risk of outburst floods (GLOFs). Extreme temperatures and wildfires have also contributed to losses on a smaller scale, while occasional droughts contribute to severe food shortages.
These figures under-report the impacts of frequent, small-scale disasters, which account for an average of 90% of all disaster events in Nepal, reflecting the high vulnerability of its population. 25.3 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, with the far‐western and mid‐western regions considered to be the poorest parts of the country. Deeply entrenched social exclusion and discrimination against certain groups based on caste, gender, ethnicity, disability, language and geographical remoteness are key drivers of vulnerability. Poor and socially excluded groups are less able to absorb shocks than other households.
Despite the awareness of earthquake risk in Nepal, the implementation of standards for disaster-resilient building and land use management has been weak, and loss of life, damage and displacement are constant threats. Low-cost, hasty construction and the lack of enforcement of building standards are linked to rapid urbanisation, weak institutional oversight and poverty. General community awareness of seismic hazards has been low, and prior investments in earthquake resilience have been insufficient.
Two successive earthquakes, one of 7.8 magnitude on 25 April 2015 and one of 7.2 magnitude on 12 May 2015, followed by hundreds of large aftershocks and landslides, precipitated massive destruction and displacement. 8,856 people lost their lives, and nearly a third of the population was affected. More than 602,000 private houses were destroyed and some 285,000 were damaged, as buildings were unable to withstand strong seismic activity and settlements near steep mountain slopes were exposed to landslides. Of the 14 severely affected districts, nine have human development index scores lower than the national average.
Conflict has also been a significant driver of displacement in the recent past, and political instability continues to be an important factor holding back development and post-disaster recovery and contributing to ongoing displacement risk. Starting in 1996, a decade of civil war between supporters of the Communist party of Nepal (Maoists) and the government internally displaced up to 200,000 people. People internally displaced by conflict may have also crossed the open border into India along with as many as two million people on the move. In addition, thousands of people were reported to have fled their homes because of separatist and criminal violence in the central Terai region in 2007 and 2008.
Development projects have also caused the displacement of thousands of people, often from marginalised, poor and indigenous communities. In 1989, the Kulekhai dam displaced 3,000 people in Nepal. Indigenous households displaced by the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve were not compensated sufficiently for their lost land, which worsened their economic situation even further. In November 2014, Nepal and India signed a deal to build a $1 billion hydropower plant on Nepal's Arun river, with most of the energy to be exported to India. Local residents who will be displaced by the project signed a resettlement action agreement, but land acquisition has been delayed. An estimated 8,342 people were displaced by five projects financed by the World Bank between 2004 and 2013.
The 2015 earthquakes affected 31 of Nepal’s 75 districts. Approximately 2.8 million people were displaced, and people largely remained in the districts where they had lived before the disaster, in makeshift tents and shelters near their damaged homes and places of livelihood. Exceptions were found in displacement sites in Kathmandu and Nuwakot, which were hosting households from Lalitpur, Kavrepalanchok, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok. Key reasons that prevented people from returning, particularly during the monsoon season, were the state of their houses and the fear of landslides and aftershocks, in addition to a lack of access to basic services.
The resulting displacement disproportionately affected vulnerable and marginalised groups. Of the houses damaged, 41 per cent belonged to Dalit and other ethnic and caste-based minorities, 26 per cent to households headed by women, and 23 per cent to senior citizens. Marginalised groups such as LGBT people and people with disabilities, who were already socially excluded before the earthquake, faced additional difficulties.
Displacement patterns are also heavily influenced by the pace of reconstruction. As of April 2017, some 2.6 million people were still housed in temporary shelters or accommodation across 14 districts, having lived through two monsoon seasons and two winters in vulnerable conditions. Two years after the earthquakes, less than 22,000 homes had been reconstructed. Many of those eligible to receive government grants have yet to receive the first tranche. Ongoing political instability over the adoption of a new constitution shortly after the 2015 earthquakes and blockades at the border with India led to shortages of fuel and building materials and to rising commodity prices.
As of early 2012, around 50,000 people internally displaced during the civil war were still unable or unwilling to go back to their places of origin. This figure does not include the several thousand people displaced by inter-communal violence in central and eastern Terai since 2007. This latter group has been ignored by both the government and international humanitarian organisations. People displaced during the civil war tended to move in small groups to take refuge with friends and families in urban areas. Most returned home upon the signing of a peace accord in 2006, encouraged by the government’s coverage of transportation costs and provision of a four-month subsistence allowance for returnees. There are no accurate estimates of the total number of people displaced or of the number still displaced as a result of those conflicts.
Protection concerns for displaced people who have been living in temporary shelters since 2015 include the prevention of physical and mental health problems, including respiratory illnesses and depression. Among the worst affected are older women, who already faced discrimination, illiteracy, poor health and hardship before the disaster and are more likely to suffer ill health, depression or neglect afterwards. Women and children are also increasingly vulnerable to trafficking. Widows find it harder to reclaim property due to their limited economic rights, lack of legal documentation and the social stigma associated with their status. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is higher among displaced sex workers due to their limited access to healthcare and heightened social and economic vulnerability. In addition, IDPs without homes and livelihoods have been displaced again through evictions from their shelters.
With reconstruction likely to take many years, safe transitional housing and livelihoods as well as more durable solutions are critical and widespread needs. Government-led programmes have favoured wealthier homeowners, while landless people, Dalits, undocumented citizens, renters and other disadvantaged people have been excluded from government assistance.
For the remaining people internally displaced by the civil war, the main obstacle to returning was the loss of land and property seized during the conflict. As in the aftermath of a disaster, many of the poorest IDPs struggled to find housing, new livelihoods or access to basic services, with widows, households headed by women, and children facing particular difficulties and protection risks.
National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal, Nepal Earthquake 2015: Post Disaster Needs Assessment Kathmandu, 2015
National Reconstruction Authority, Government of Nepal, Nepal Earthquake 2015: Post Disaster Recovery Framework: 2016-2020 Kathmandu, May 2016
IDP Laws and Policies database
Housing Recovery and Reconstruction Platform (HRRP)- Nepal, Two years on, 24 April 2017
Amnesty International, Building Inequality: The Failure of the Nepali government to Protect the Marginalised in Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Efforts, 25 April 2017
UNISDR, 25 April 2015 Gorkha Earthquake Disaster Risk Reduction Situation Report, June 2, 2015, available at
Kalin, Walter, Internally Displaced in Nepal: Overlooked and Neglected, UN Expert Says, The Brookings Institution, 22 April 2005