Environmentally displaced people: Desertification is creating an inhospitable home for families in the Sahel Zone

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This article was published in the printed version of the GIMUN Chronicles, the newspaper of GIMUN’s Annual Conference 2016, two months ago. We thought we’d give you a chance to rediscover it!


By Ashli Molina

The Sahel Zone, home to 17 African countries such as Mali, Liberia, Niger, and Chad, has severely felt the effects of climate change. And its people are suffering the irrevocable consequences.

Walk south of the Sahara Desert and you’ll hit the Sahel Zone in Central Africa, a region home to 309 million people forcefully being shoved out of their homes by the desert’s slow but evident expansion.

Environmentally displaced people are those who are induced to migrate, whether it’s from a place of residence or a country, because their homes are no longer livable or able to sustain them, due to natural disasters or irreversible degradation of environmental resources. By the middle of the century, it is estimated that the world may have between 25 million and 1 billion climate-related migrants.

Inhabitants of the Sahel Zone are dealing with the scarcity of natural resources, such as water. A drought has also hit the region. Expected rainfall has immensely fluctuated in the past decade, with some areas in Burkina Faso having experienced 50 mm less rainfall than usual.

While the Sahara Desert expands into the Sahel territory, a concept called desertification, many of the region’s areas are also experiencing an average of a 2° Celsius rise in temperature.

Scarcity of food poses another threat to the desert-surrounded region. Food prices are soaring and crops are not growing due to lack of grass cover and the low filling of water points. The agropastoral crisis is worrisome and enough to displace families.

Food insecurity has driven approximately 300,000 people out of Mali, and they have migrated to Sahelian countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger, all countries also vulnerable to a food crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted the region will be the most vulnerable to future climate change.

Everyday life is becoming increasingly difficult for people. Multiple factors combined have created a region inhospitable to its inhabitants.

The most impending question is whether environmentally displaced people will be protected by the states and to what extent.

2015 ended on a strong note, especially with the conclusion of the Paris Climate Agreeement, but the conversation needs to be broadened and to consider the rights of victims affected by climate fluctuations.

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