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Climate Change and Migration in the Middle East and North Africa

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Apr 07, 2015 / 0 Comments

By Quentin Wondon and Andrea Liverani


The links between climate change and migration have been studied in detail, but the data for the Middle East – North Africa (MENA) zone remained limited until the World Bank and the French Development Agency carried out a survey of five countries in the region in 2010.


A region suffering from marked environmental degradation


The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is subject to pronounced climatic pressures that in all likelihood will worsen in the future. According to the household surveys carried out as part of the World Bank/AFD project, local populations are aware of this and concerned about the deterioration of their environment in the form of repeated droughts, soil degradation, floods and falling agricultural output.


Rising sea levels and shoreline erosion are other significant dangers, especially for certain cities; these dangers, though, were not actual subjects of the study, which concentrated more on the situation of rural populations. Means of existence for rural communities are largely determined by their natural environment. These communities feel threatened and are trying to adapt to climate change, but have very limited resources for doing so. Migration is often perceived by households as one possible strategy in the face of climatic and environmental change, but it is not certain that these households, or some of their members, would actually be able to leave the most badly affected regions.


A survey focusing on 4,000 households in affected zones in 5 countries


The study is based on household and discussion group surveys, together with in depth interviews. The household surveys involved the following regions:

  • in Algeria, in the prefectures of Djelfa (north central) and M’sila (north)
  • in Egypt, in the districts of Dhakhlia (northeast of Cairo) and Sharqia (north)
  • in Morocco, in the regions of Al-Gharb (west) and Chichaoua (south)
  • in Syria, in the districts of Alhasaka (northeast) and Deir ez-Zor (east)
  • in Yemen, in the districts of Taiz (south) and Hudayda (west).


In each country 800 households were surveyed. External and internal migrations were looked into, but internal migrations turned out to be much more frequent. The same questionnaire was used, with minor adaptations, in all five countries. It covered a number of subjects including perception of climatic changes, the impact of climate shock on households, short and medium term adaptation strategies (including migration), climate as a factor in migration, and the part played by communities and governments in supporting adaptation strategies. In addition, 7 discussion groups were set up in each country, four of them for migrants in urban areas and three for rural residents in areas where the environment had deteriorated and which thus became sources of migration towards the cities. There   were 6 to 8 people in each discussion group, all of them over 18 and including as many women as men. It should be noted that given the characteristics of the areas chosen, the surveys are not representative at national level; however, they do point up the issues in regions among those most affected by climate change in the countries concerned.


Access the full version of the article published in La Revue de la Villa Méditerranée produced by  Provence-Alpes Cote d’Azur Region here.


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