Disasters uproot 144 mln people in Horn of Africa in 4 years: report
23 May 2014, 08:00
Nairobi - About 144 million people have been displaced in the Horn of Africa region between 2008 and 2012 by sudden-onset disasters around the world, a joint report launched in Nairobi on Thursday revealed.
The new report by the United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said thousands of people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of being displaced across borders as extreme weather increases in frequency.
"As extreme weather increases in intensity thousands are at risk of being displaced. Many of the displaced receive some assistance, but the support varies. There is a need for more predictive protection and assistance. We must start in the hardest affected regions," Nina M. Birkeland of the NRC said in Nairobi.
The report said the vast majority of those displaced in the past four years fled from floods, storms and wildfires and others effects of climate change. Most remain in their countries as internally displaced people, but many also flee across the borders to other countries.
The report called for more attention to the situation of individuals who are displaced to another country because of climate change and disasters in the Horn of Africa.
"Drought forces people to leave their homes in Somalia and Ethiopia and flee to Kenya, Egypt or Yemen. Most of those fleeing are pastoralists, small scale farmers and agro-pastoralists," said the report.
The report showed that natural disasters usually interact with ethnic and politically based discrimination. For instance, armed conflict and lack of humanitarian access in Somalia played an important role in escalating the effects of the drought and famine.
"Individuals leave for another country for a variety of reasons, but in many cases the driving factor is related to the loss and deterioration of livelihood," said Dr. Tamer Afifi from UNU-EHS.
The United Nations University (UNU) is the academic arm of the United Nations (UN). UNU-EHS, established in December 2003, is part of the UNU system, a worldwide network of Research and Training Institutes.
"Induced by weather-related events, factors such as destruction of crops or flooding motivate people to cross borders," said the report.
It said people often leave without essential legal documents, money, personal items and might be separated from their families.
According to the report, people who are forced to flee their homes as a result of a disaster and effects of climate change are not considered refugees under current law and conventions. If a refugee status cannot be applied, displaced persons may have limited access to assistance.
"There is a need to explore the experiences of those directly affected as well as responses by governments, international organizations and others on the ground. We must ensure that the rights of those displaced are protected," said Birkeland.
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