Climate change fuels internal migration, new study reveals

Locals search for missing persons after landslides hit Buwali Sub-county in Bududa District  on December 4, 2019.Environmental change and climate-related disasters are becoming the major drivers of internal migration in Uganda. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The study indicates that disasters including drought, floods  are contributing to internal migration.

Environmental change and climate-related disasters are becoming the major drivers of internal migration in Uganda, a new study has revealed.

The 2020 study titled, Assessing the Evidence, Migration Environment and Climate Change Nexus in Uganda, was conducted by the Ministry of Water and Environment in partnership with International Organisation for Migration and Makerere University Centre for Climate Change Research and Innovation (MUCCRI) in the districts of Katakwi, Bududa, and Amudat.

The study indicates that disasters such as drought, floods, mudslides and resource conflicts between the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas are contributing to internal migration.

It added that Uganda is highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change such as temperature rise, drought, desertification, and the general land degradation and biodiversity loss.

While presenting the findings of the study in Kampala on Monday, Dr Revocatus Twinomuhangi, a senior lecturer and coordinator of MUCCRI , said the country has suffered both slow-onset and sudden on-set climate and environmental changes which have influenced migration patterns.

 “Sudden-onset climate problems like floods and landslides often cause destruction of lives and displace the affected populations who have to leave their homes mainly temporarily but in some cases permanently,” he said.

He also noted that at least four million people in Uganda have been internally displaced by disasters in the last 10 to 20 years.

The report further stated that although most of the migrations are internal, cross-border migrations are also common, especially among pastoral communities like it was the case in Amudat District where some pastoralists had to seek refuge in the neighbouring Kenya.

The report emphasises the importance of mainstreaming migration into local development plans and adaptation strategies. It also noted that Uganda lacks a comprehensive migration policy that recognises environmental or climate change migration.

It is estimated that biodiversity loss, degradation of soil resource and wetland encroachment costs Uganda’s economy about $87.9m (Shs316b) annually.

The study also found that migration is serving as a strategy for coping with and adapting to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

The chief of mission of the International Organisation for Migration, Mr Sanusi Tejan Savage, said: “Migration should be out of choice, and not because people have no choice but to flee.”

The State Minister for Water and Environment, Ms Beatrice Anywar, said the Climate Change Act tasks government to sensitise, regulate, monitor and ensure that environmental issues are mainstreamed in budget undertakings.

Ms Anywar said corrupt officials who degrade the environment or swindle money meant for environment programmes should be unmasked and punished.

IDPs in Uganda

Uganda is one of the countries with the largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). 
In 2007, the country recorded 1.7 million IDPs.

In the same year, the country was devastated by El-Nino, which was characterised by intense and prolonged rains that caused flooding in eastern Uganda where 48,000 were temporarily displaced by floods.