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In the Sahel, the arid belt of land that stretches across Africa just south of the Sahara, migration has always represented a way of life: many inhabitants of the region lived for millennia as nomadic pastoralists moving with their herds in search of water and pasture.

Recently, significant changes in rainfall patterns and rising temperatures have caused a disturbing form of population movement: the so called climate displacement.

In Burkina Faso and Niger, at the heart of the Sahel, poor communities have experienced severe rainfall anomalies in recent years that can be related to climate change.

In small villages in Burkina Faso, changeable weather conditions have strongly damaged residents year after year. Data show that in 2010 there was not enough rain to grow millet or replenish pasture and in 2011 sudden cloudbursts caused heavy flooding destroying houses and schools. These phenomena have resulted in a region-wide crisis that left 18 million people without sufficient food and children at risk of starvation.

In this framework, these unpredictable recurrent crisis have worsened the living conditions of poorer communities, that are the most vulnerable to environmental disasters such as droughts and floods that have lowered crop yields and wiped out people's limited savings, combined with other factors as land degradation.

Due to this situation, poor people are forced to leave their villages, sell their goods to survive, becoming poorer and also more vulnerable. Humanitarian organizations have revealed that about 30% of people in Burkina have moved away in the past 20 years.

These people are compelled to move due to changing climate, looking for more productive farmlands or moving to fast-growing urban slums in order to find job opportunities, facing in this way several risks, such as exploitation and extortion.

However, these people who leave their home because of climate change do not receive protection: they are not considered refugees according to the UN refugee convention that can be applied only to those who cross an international border while fleeing persecution.

Moreover, with temperatures in the Sahel forecasted to increase by 3-5C by mid-century, changing weather conditions will be the cause of more displacement and further strain of this chronically poor and unstable region.


The gLAWcal Team

Thursday, 15 May 2014

(source: The Guardian)