Monday, June 27, 2011

Drought cause or not?

News reports indicate that "War and drought in Somalia are leading an unprecedented number of people to flee across the border into Kenya". Surely the issue is that war (and lack of governance) have undermined people's abilities to cope with drought? That is, the drought per se is not the cause of migration. Instead, it is people's lack of ability to deal with a drought--with the lack of ability being due to human factors only, with no climate-related connections.


  1. The crisis continues with appalling human suffering. As one exceedingly minor comment, see how the catastrophe is being portrayed. focuses on the drought as the concern. The implication is clearly 'drought refugees'. immediately places the drought in context: "Somalia, whose ongoing conflict has left it the country least able to cope with the Horn of Africa's worst drought in 60 years." The drought exacerbates the conflict situation.

    But relatively minor discourse analysis should not shadow the fact that a human tragedy is unfolding and the people can do little to help themselves. Climate migrants/refugees/displaced or not, the world needs to step in to assist people irrespective of the cause.

  2. As the drought and famine disaster continues, some media approaches are being more nuanced in their discussion:

    "Analysts say the drought has been caused by the lack of rains and the failure of governments to adequately finance agriculture and irrigation schemes."

    That is, the causes are not solely linked to weather and climate. Human action plays a large role.

  3. Unsurprisingly, some migrants are starting to state that they did not leave because of the drought

    Even though some clearly did, it is important not to immediately construct the situation as "drought refugees"--in exactly the same way that it is important not to immediately construct the situation as "drought diplomacy" / "disaster diplomacy"

    This leads to an operational challenge in humanitarian relief, that workers on the ground always struggle with. Should migrants for different reasons be separated? If so, how? Does it make any difference regarding their treatment, even where there is a clear difference regarding legal status?