Report: Rising temperatures to create more ‘climate refugees’ in Africa’s Sahel region

• August 8, 2013
‘climate refugees’

Millions of people in West Africa’s Sahel region could be displaced because of climate change. Creative Commons: UN Photo/Tim McKulka

With climate experts predicting temperature rises of 3-5°C by the middle of the century, new research is warning West Africa’s Sahel region could see millions of ‘climate refugees’ as extreme weather drives millions to flee their homes.

In a region where 80% of the 100 million population rely completely on rainfall to survive, extreme and erratic weather linked to climate change has already displaced communities across the Sahel.

Last year, acute drought left almost 19 million people in the region affected by food shortages, with Niger and Mali the worst hit.

And a new report (pdf) from Refugees International warns that this trend would get drastically worse as temperatures rise.

It urged the UN and donor countries to improve tracking of displacement and work to protect those most affected.

“In particularly bad years, 80 or 90% of people will leave their villages altogether in some parts of the Sahel,” said RI’s climate displacement expert Alice Thomas, author of a new report on the effects of recurrent climate shocks in the Sahel:

More recurrent droughts and unpredictable rainfall have led to repeatedly poor harvests. As a result, poor households are no longer able to feed their families and increasingly they must leave their villages in order to survive.

Although the Sahel region is prone to drought, rains have become more erratic, making it hard for farmers and herders to anticipate when and where rain will fall and how much there will be.

More frequent droughts and floods have reduced crop yields and livestock herds, and wiped out villagers’ savings – leaving many with no choice but to abandon their land, the report said.

It is not known how many people in the Sahel have been displaced as a result of climate-related weather changes, but Thomas said evidence suggested the problem was widespread and getting worse.

In the far north of Burkina Faso, it is estimated that roughly 30% of households had relocated in the last 20 years, Thomas added.

Read more: AlertNet >>

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