It’s time for shared responsibility for climate migration and health

Photo 162790884 © Carlos Duarte | Dreamstime.com

“If our existence is to mean anything, then we must act in the interest of all of our people who are dependent on us” — Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados.

In her powerful speech to world leaders at COP26, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados urged world leaders to look at the gaps in funding needed to aid climate adaptation and emphasized how the immediate effects of climate change are largely being felt by communities who have not contributed to the large damages we see today.

Her sentiments reflect those of climate activists who have been shining the light on how the effects of climate change are disproportionately being felt by rural agricultural workers and indigenous people to name a few, in the small island developing states, low lying low and middle economies countries.

For many who find themselves at the forefront of these effects, climate migration within or across countries has been a key adaptation tool. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, climate change would lead more than 216 million people in 6 regions to migrate within their country, with over 86 million people moving in sub-saharan Africa.

Infographic from World Bank Groundswell II report, 2021.

“As the impacts of disasters, land degradation and water scarcity become more intense and devastating, it has become critical to address the impacts of climate change on migration, displacement and health” — António Vitorino, Director General of International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Migration within or across countries often does not guarantee a safe passage and results in bad health outcomes for those on the move. There has been an urgent call from organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and IOM to global leaders to mitigate the consequences of climate change on migration and people’s health.

In Bangladesh, where half a million people move to the capital city Dhaka every year, the lack of basic needs in urban slums undermines their health and well being. Farmers unable to engage in agriculture for a living in the rural areas of Guatemala, find themselves as victims of violence in the country’s city or US border where there is no safe passage available into the country. Ensuring a safer passage and addressing the health and well-being of climate migrants currently on the move or who will be on the move in the years to come is paramount.

Photo 62636898 / Bangladesh © Sjors737 | Dreamstime.com

Two key calls to action raised to ensure the health and well-being of climate migrants include:

1. Planning and policy coherence across all systems and agencies with the emphasize on including the voices of people on the move in the entire process.

The health of migrants on the move is affected by a myriad of economic, social and political factors starting from the country of origin to the country of destination. Collaboration between different stakeholders working in different sectors along the entire migrant journey will be crucial to create successful policies and resilient systems.

The recent announcement of two partnerships to address issues related to climate change and health and well being between the IOM with WHO, Lancet Migration and the European Investment Bank pave the way in highlighting the need for multiagency collaborations. In addition, a key point raised throughout COP26, which must not be forgotten, is the call to ensure the inclusion of migrant voices, particularly the voices of young people, in the whole entire process of planning and implementation.

2. Creating climate resilient and migrant inclusive health systems

As indicated by the World Bank report, many migrants will move internally within countries and particularly in regions where health systems are already struggling. Migrant inclusive and climate resilient health systems will be key in ensuring that health for all is achieved.

Building migrant inclusive climate resilient health systems include(not an exhaustive list):

To achieve these the transfer of knowledge, technology and finance is needed particularly to countries who already find themselves currently baring the consequences of climate change.

Without a coordinated approach with strong political will, both at the country and global level, to ensure the health and well being of climate migrants, migration as an adaptation strategy will not bring a better future for many.

A time for shared responsibility and cooperation for climate migration and health was originally published in Migrant Matters on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A time for shared responsibility and cooperation for climate migration and health