By Baher Kamal
It is difficult to describe in a simple sentence the human drama that the millions of victims who escape from wars, armed violence, poverty and natural disasters represent and that basically continue to be ignored.
Widespread violence and climate catastrophes are common on all continents and countries, but Africa is the one that bears the worst share, many experts and specialized international and scientific organizations agree.
Africa, the second largest continent after Asia in size and population, concentrates almost half of the 40 armed conflicts that exist today.
Furthermore, with 54 countries where 1.2 billion people live, it is the region hardest hit by the various impacts of climate change, a phenomenon for which it is practically not responsible.
The cause-and-effect relationship between climate variations and population movements is already an indisputable fact, agree numerous humanitarian organizations and agencies of the United Nations Organization.
1. - Droughts, coupled with population growth, the lack of sustainable land and water management, natural disasters, political conflicts and tensions, among other factors, caused massive population movements throughout Africa , pointed out the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
Forced displacement in Africa can be attributed to various causes, such as power struggles, violence between communities, land disputes, floods, storms and other natural problems, it adds.
More than half of the world's fragile states are in sub-Saharan Africa, some of which have the highest number of displaced people.
"Africa has more countries affected by displacement than any other continent or region, and in 2015 it concentrated more than 15 million displaced people," said UNEP.
“The relationship between the environment and displaced people was well demonstrated in Africa,” agreed Saidou Hamani, regional coordinator for disasters and conflicts at the UNEP Africa office.
"People leave areas where environmental degradation progresses slowly, such as droughts and desertification, and flee from immediate emergencies, such as tropical storms and flash floods," he said.
2. - According to the 2016 report on Internal Displacement, there were 27.8 million new people displaced in 127 countries the previous year, more or less the populations of New York, London, Paris and Cairo added, 8.6 million which due to conflicts and armed violence in 28 countries, while 19.2 million due to natural disasters in 113 nations.
The increasing intensity of disasters derived from climate change, added to the consequences of environmental degradation, will probably continue to affect human displacement.
- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) predicted that there will be 200 million people displaced for environmental reasons in 2050, which will have great consequences for both countries of origin, transit and reception.
People and communities displaced by natural disasters or by climate change suffer deprivation and experiences similar to those displaced by conflict, and have protection needs of the same order.
In Africa, food insecurity and environmental degradation are related to floods and other factors, such as reduced pastures, as well as a shortage of fuelwood and other natural resources, the IOM noted.
These factors contribute to population movements, leading to increased competition for scarce resources and leading to armed conflicts, especially between pastoralist and sedentary communities.
The problem is especially pronounced in the Sahel region, in Sudan, in South Sudan, in Djibouti, in Somalia, in Ethiopia and in Kenya, all with vast populations of pastoralists, who migrate according to variations in climate and conditions. seasonal patterns.
Forecasts regarding the future number of environmental migrants vary between 25 million and 1 billion by 2050, whether they stay within their countries or go abroad, with 200 million being the most mentioned number, which coincides with current estimates of the migrants now around the world.
3. - “Regional climate changes have consequences on the availability of essential natural resources for subsistence, as well as on food security. This, added to important social, economic and political factors, can affect migration, conflict or a combination of both ", agrees the report" Security for subsistence. Climate change, migration and conflict in the Sahel ”.
4. - It is evident that there are gradual and sudden environmental changes that already cause substantial population movements, points out the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR).
"The number of storms, droughts and floods has tripled in the last 30 years with devastating effects on vulnerable communities, particularly in the developing world," he said.
"Climate change and the environment have a major impact on the lives of millions of forcibly uprooted people around the world," he adds.
Many of these people survive with what they can extract from their natural environment, especially in emergencies, such as food, shelter, energy, shelter, medicines, agriculture and productive activities, among others, indicates Acnur.
“The unsustainable use of natural resources can lead to environmental degradation, with lasting effects on natural resources and the well-being of displaced and host communities. Furthermore, competition for these scarce natural resources, such as firewood, water and grazing lands, can generate friction, ”he explained.
5. - Gradual changes in the environment tend to have an even greater impact on the movement of people than extreme weather events. For example, in the past 30 years, twice as many people were affected by both droughts and storms, about 1.6 billion, compared to 718 million, according to the International Disaster Database.
In 2008, 20 million people were displaced by extreme weather events, far more than the 4.6 million who were displaced by conflict and armed violence.
6. - Since 2009, it is estimated that one person per second has been displaced by some natural disaster, with 22.5 million people in that situation due to extreme events or other climatic factors since 2008, according to a report by the International Center for Displacement Monitoring.
7. - The Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change predicts an increase in the number of displaced persons throughout this century. Most of the people of concern to UNHCR are concentrated in the most vulnerable regions of the world.
Climate change will displace and push more people into poverty in the coming years, exacerbating conflict-generating factors and further complicating needs and the search for humanitarian solutions.
To address these great challenges, two key events will take place in the coming days, the Africa Drought Conference, to be held in Windhoek, Namibia, from 15 to 19 this month, and World Humanitarian Day, to be celebrated on the 19th.
Translated by Verónica Firme
Photo: Young newcomers from the Sudanese region of Darfur endure a sandstorm in the border region of Bamina in eastern Chad. The rains have decreased there since 1950, which, added to deforestation, had devastating consequences for the environment. Credit: H.Caux / © UNHCR