The Climate Displacement Crisis Is Already Here—And Bigger Than You Might Think

Climate change has displaced millions of people around the world. Find out why and how you can help.

Extreme weather and natural disasters have displaced an astonishing 12.6 million people around the world—in the last six months alone. This makes climate change one of the leading causes of global displacement. Increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, cyclones, flooding, and other effects of climate change make other causes of displacement—including armed conflict, poverty, water shortages, and food insecurity—even harder to overcome.

As climate-change-related disasters increase in frequency, so does climate migration. World leaders recognize this need, and earlier this month, pledged to increase funding to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change.

Where are climate refugees coming from?

Many who face the most direct impacts of climate change—and those who will be forced into migration because of it—are already among the most vulnerable in communities and around the world.

In 2018, the World Bank estimated that three regions—Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia—will generate 143 million more climate migrants by 2050.

In Southeast Asia, where the increasingly unpredictable monsoon season and drought has made farming more difficult, The World Bank reports that 8 million people have moved to the Middle East, Europe, and North America. In the African Sahel, millions have moved to the coasts and cities after facing widespread crop failure.

So, what can we do to help climate refugees now, and stem the number of people at risk of climate-related displacement in the future?

Here are three straightforward ways to help climate refugees today and in the future:


1. Support refugee-led organizations.

Help Climate Refugees by Urban Refugees
Photo by GlobalGiving Partner URBAN REFUGEES
86% of the world’s refugee population live in the Global South, and over 60% reside in cities. The international system relies mainly on refugee camps to support those in need. As a result, urban refugees struggle to survive, facing precarious living conditions, discrimination, exploitation, and a lack of access to essential services.

Refugees bring a wealth of skills and experience with them when they flee to new countries and communities. These skills need to be identified and used to better engage refugees in their own solutions. Refugee communities, for example, often set up their own self-help groups in their countries of asylum. These groups know their communities best and often respond first to their communities’ needs and priorities. Refugee-led organizations, however, are seldom a part of the formal humanitarian response and are rarely financially supported.

URBAN REFUGEES works to strengthen the capacities of refugee-led organizations in 40 countries by working directly with refugee leaders to enhance their capacity to serve their communities and achieve long-term sustainability. In collaboration with refugee communities, they built the URBAN REFUGEES Incubation Program in 2017 to provide refugee-led organizations with tools, training, and resources to build their organizational capacity and ability to deliver improved services to their communities. Additionally, they advocate for refugee leaders in decision-making processes through training and technical advice and encourage stakeholders involved in refugee responses to meaningfully support, fund, and collaborate with refugee-led organizations.

2. Strengthen resilience through indigenous leadership.

Help Climate Refugees in the Philippines
Photo by GlobalGiving Partner SIBAT
Indigenous communities use deep-rooted knowledge to prepare for and mitigate the damage from natural disasters. Investing in indigenous-led and inspired organizations is crucial to climate solutions.

Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT), Inc. works to build self-reliant and climate-resilient communities in the Philippines. In the places where SIBAT works, natural resources are a lifeline. Rivers provide water for homes and farms , and fish to eat and sell. Forests provide a buffer from tropical storms and a home to the wild boars they hunt. SIBAT has worked to build awareness with their communities about the importance of disaster and resilience preparedness when responding to the climate crisis. By focusing on community-generated risk reduction plans, communities become more resilient and form stronger bonds based on mutual protection and longevity.

3. Welcome refugees and prepare cities.

Help Climate Refugees in Mexico
Photo by GlobalGiving Partner Fondo Semillas
Migration brings opportunities. Migrants come to their new homes with skills, ideas, customs, and expertise, enriching our collective culture. They boost economic growth and innovation, addresses economic imbalances, and contributes more in taxes and social contributions than they receive.

Migration is first centered in big cities, spurring rapid urbanization. In Mexico, The World Bank estimates as many as 1.7 million people may migrate away from the hottest and driest regions, many of them winding up in Mexico City. It is imperative to welcome those migrating and build systems to protect them.

Fondo Semillas, based in Mexico City, is a Mexican feminist fund that mobilizes resources to support, strengthen and connect women’s organizations and grassroots groups. They are working to support 13 women-led grassroots organizations who provide services, shelter, and legal support to defend the rights of migrant girls and women in Mexico. One organization, Tzome Ixuk, has offered shelter to more than 50 women fleeing from Central America. As well as having their basic needs met at the shelter, the women and girls are also receiving training so that they understand their rights, and are participating in self-care and security workshops.

Fondo Semillas, SIBAT, and so many more community-led organizations are on the frontlines of curbing the effects of climate change. Investing in their work is more urgent than ever.

Explore more solutions for climate refugees through GlobalGiving. Commit to making a monthly donation to an organization of your choice, and your fourth consecutive gift will be matched at 100%!


Featured Photo: Protect their Journey by Fondo Semillas

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