What are the implications for people forced to leave their homes arising from climate change when movements of people are curtailed by preventative coronavirus measures?
I read a Blog this morning on Linkedin written by Alex Randall an expert on the connections between climate, disasters and migration; he is coordinator of the Climate and Migration Coalition
His blog contained some interesting observations and commentary that I thought worth sharing in the context of climate change disaster, such as a typhoon strike causing displacements of people when a city, such as Honiara, could be in lockdown due to emergency measures necessary to contain COVID-19.
The Solomon Islands was badly hit by Tropical Cyclone Harold most recently and it went on to cause massive destruction, including property damage and infrastructure losses in the northern part of Vanuatu.
The Guadalcanal Plains in the Solomon Islands was extensively flooded causing people to flee their homes and land and seek shelter elsewhere.
Perhaps the people from the flooded plains moved to other parts of Guadalcanal that had escaped the flooding and crop losses and did not take refuge in Honiara then enforcing movement measures and curtailments arising from the Declaration of Public Emergency.
Mr. Randall had this to say when people are displaced by sudden, climate related events.
“They tend not to move far. They usually flee to immediate places of safety or to evacuation centres. During a pandemic, however, this displacement comes with incredibly dangerous complications. Cities that are in lockdown will have to decide whether or not to attempt stop people fleeing. The potential for confusion and violence is huge.”
“City authorities will also have to decide whether it is even possible to provide emergency evacuation spaces — those municipal buildings (schools, sports centres etc) in which large groups of people are crammed during a weather emergency. At the moment such spaces would present an incredible public health risk, given the way Covid-19 spreads.”
“Sudden displacement is not the only way climate change, human movement and Covid-19 collide — many people across the developing world also migrate to cities to find work as a means of coping with slowly unfolding climate impacts like drought. “
“As urban economies grind to a halt, many will find themselves trapped in the drought-stricken countryside. Others will be forced to leave the cities to which they have moved, and return to environmentally vulnerable rural areas.”
“As cities go into lockdown and people are laid off, payments back to rural families will dry up too, leaving them less able to cope with the drought and removing a vital economic safety net in poorer rural areas.”
“Further, while some wealthier countries have been able to compensate workers for lost wages and bail out struggling companies, such options may not be possible for poorer countries, leaving millions struggling to cope with the direct impacts of the pandemic, and also forcing them to return to dangerous, climate-vulnerable places.”
“Debt relief to poorer countries must form part of how this crisis is dealt with. Richer countries must not use a crisis at home to slash aid and development funding. Even while developed countries are dealing with their own crises, they must continue to offer support.”
“But this crisis also necessitates a rethink of how climate-adaptation funding is deployed. Millions are already using migration as a way of adapting to climate change. They have done this using their own resources, usually without the help of any formal climate change adaptation programme. Those individual acts of climate adaptation are now threatened by Covid-19.”
Mr. Randall has raised some important issues in his Blog which give us food for thought and especially as the Solomon Islands is vulnerable to climate change bringing on tropical cyclones resulting in both temporary and more permanent migration and when the country is having to take strict enforcement measures to combat the threat of coronavirus; measures which have seen layoffs of workers and loss of income and jobs.