Effects of Natural Disaters on Migration Essay

International migration is of great concern to both developing and developed countries. The movement of people is led by economic, demographic, political, social, cultural and environmental factors in both the sending country ‘push factors’ as well as in destination countries ‘pull factors’ Harris and Todaro, (1970). Natural disasters are one of the major factors leading to migration in Africa as a result of poor disaster management skills for example drought in the horn of Africa, floods in South Africa and Mozambique, cyclones in Madagascar and earthquakes in Egypt.

Natural disasters destroy the infrastructure thereby living people without accommodation while others like drought increase poverty and food insecurity thereby in an attempt to secure basic needs humans are forced to migrate thus forced migration due to natural disasters. Naude (2008) shows in the Sub-Saharan Africa context that environmental pressure has an impact on migration through the frequency of natural disasters hence the rate of migration can be directly linked to natural disasters in the continent.

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However in countries with proper disaster management techniques natural disasters do not largely lead to migration and some can say it does not have a greater impact on migration though it’s a subject to debate. Natural disasters are a major contributing factor towards migration especially within the continent of Africa where most countries fail to properly counter these disasters. The severe drought which is affecting vast areas of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti is leading to a considerable increase in complex, multi-directional migration flows, both within and across international borders, according to Reuveny (2007).

Poverty in the region is now at its highest level and the people are migrating in an attempt to improve their basic needs like food and clean water which are now scarce within the countries scholars like Smith (2007) confirm that migration on a permanent or temporary basis has always been one of the most important survival strategies adopted by people confronted by natural or human-caused disasters.

The drought in Somalia has led to massive migration with people seeking assistance in Ethiopia and Kenya, with some 50,000 new arrivals reported in June. Over the past three weeks, some 11,000 people have arrived in Ethiopia and more than 8,600 in Kenya, with daily arrivals now averaging 2,000 in Ethiopia and 1,200 in Kenya, says IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker. Thereby from such a case one may say natural disasters have a greater impact on migration which can be confirmed by the current situation in the horn of Africa.

Natural disasters like cyclones and earthquakes destroy the infrastructure and usually leave people with no accommodation as well as loss of jobs. An example can be sited of the 1960 earthquake in Agadir, Morocco which killed 15 000 people (a third of the town’s population), injured 13 000, destroyed approximately 70% of the town’s buildings and 35 000 people left homeless which is confirmed by Barnett and jones in their book ‘forced migration’.

With such a situation at hand, migration was inevitable since the town was extremely destroyed thereby most of the survivors migrated to neighbouring countries so as to seek refuge. Moving to closer towns and cities would lead to overpopulation hence competition on resources which would result in civil wars and socio-political instability. Without housing residents would stay in squatter camps where there are high chances of outbreak of diseases like cholera hence by moving to other countries in the hope of improving their livelihoods will be the result.

In a place where an earthquake would have occurred most people would not favour settling there since there is no assurance that another one will not come and most African countries are not economically stable hence rebuilding such areas would take time thus the people will be forced to permanently migrate since such states decreases their ability to provide opportunities and services to help people become less vulnerable (Stern, 2007).

Outbreak of natural disasters does not only lead to internal migration but also international migration for example floods in Mozambique and its low lying deltas led to the migration of many people to neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. According to ‘Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters’ CRED (2010), Mozambique has been seriously affected by floods by the Limpopo River on the south in 2000 and the Zambezi river in the central region in 2001,2007 and 2008.

The floods left millions of people homeless Naude (2008) and the government of Mozambique was giving people incentives to produce more solid houses in their resettled areas but since the people relied on the rivers for their livelihoods they are migrating to other areas with similar resources. Affected people lost their homes and livelihoods as well as access to medical facilities, sanitation and safe drinking water W. H. O (2007) and in such a case they were forced to migrate .

The environment is therefore increasing its role as a push factor for people’s decision to leave their places of origin. Henceforth considering the above it may be considered accurate for one to say that natural disasters have a greater impact on migration within the African continent. To further strengthen the fact that natural disasters have an impact on migration one can say natural disasters increase resource competition between both the migrants and hosts thus internal conflicts leading to social, political and economic instability.

Migrants affect the livelihood of host populations by exerting pressure on local wages, by increasing competition for job opportunities, resulting in ethnic tension and mistrust, Jones and Barnett (2007). In Somalia during the severe drought people began to compete for resources especially water for their herds since the majority are cattle herders and it resulted in civil wars which have been active for more than a decade now and people begun to flee from such areas. In Somalia the current conflict between Kenyans and Somalis which has displaced hundreds of thousands Menkhaus (2005).

Thereby in short natural disasters lead to conflict and at the end migration hence it may be accurate to say it has a greater impact on migration. Natural disasters have a greater impact on migration in the sense that it may lead to biological disasters like cholera, malaria and ebola outbreaks. Outbreaks of such diseases tend to claim a lot of lives mainly because most African countries are still trapped in poverty which reduces their ability to counter such disasters Naude (2008).

In the low lying areas along the Zambezi valley in Zimbabwe has been confirmed to be not proper for human habitation and all the people who used to stay in that area migrated to other regions due to the outbreak of tsetse fly in the region. To add on, in Uganda in the kibaale district so far there are 34 confirmed deaths according to the BBC and if this persists many people will evacuate the area until the government manages to clear the virus.

From such a point outbreak of diseases are leading to migration simply because most nations are not in a position to counter such outbreaks because of a number of reasons. However on the other hand one may not totally agree with the fact that natural disasters largely lead to migration in Africa because they are other factors. The major factor leading to migration in the continent may be said to be globalization thus people are not only migrating from areas where natural disasters will have occurred but they are migrating in an attempt to improve their livelihoods.

Washington (2006) asserts that the growing job opportunities, high wages and low cost of living is attracting Africans to the developed countries like England, Canada, Australia and U. S. A. he says the best theory to explain migration within Africa and to other continents is lee’s push-pull theory, people only migrate to areas where there are most pull factors and less intervening factors like the migration of most Zimbabweans to south Africa and Botswana around 2006-10 was because of economic and political instability not only just but to list a few.

Thereby when considering the above one may say though natural disasters play a significant role towards migration it might not be the largest contributing factor since there are a lot of contributing factors but however they vary their importance from country to country and from period to period.

In conclusion, to greater extent natural disasters play a vital role towards migration within Africa because of a number of facts for example destruction of infrastructure, conflicts and low quality of life among others. However to a lesser extent there are other contributing factors such as globalization which should also be considered when dealing with migration in Africa.

With all been said it will be accurate for one to say natural disasters have their own regions were they determined migration while other factors also have their own regions but in some cases they all contribute and to clearly see which one has a greater say will all depend on the country being affected for example migration in Somalia was largely initiated by drought but in Zimbabwe it was because of high cost of living and unemployment. Hence since Africa is not one country it is not clear which factor contribute most because of the variation from country to country.

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