Changing climate, changing realities: migration in the Sahel report

Exploring how people are affected by climate change and the pressure on people to leave their homes.

Our new report, Changing climate, changing realities: migration in the Sahel, looks at ways climate change is affecting people’s lives, with case studies from Mali and Sudan.

In the Sahel region, people’s lives have been affected for decades by changes in their environment, often forcing them to leave their homes.

Crises like droughts and floods can send vulnerable people in search of new, better places to survive and thrive.

To survive, people may cope by moving to another place in the country or to a country nearby to support themselves and their families.

This has long been an important coping strategy, and a way to remain resilient.

Key findings

1. Changes in the climate and environment are making people more vulnerable and increasing humanitarian needs.

In Mali and Sudan, most people that we spoke to and surveyed through the research observed changes in the environment, including rainfall, floods and droughts.

2. The interplay between changes in the climate and environment and why people decide to move from place to place is complicated.

People’s reasons to move and ability to move are shaped by many factors, including gender, inequality, (dis)ability, age, conflict and poverty.

3. While migrating is a way for people to adapt to changes in the climate, it can also involve losses.

For a long time people have coped with and adapted to changes, by moving. People move to find new ways to support themselves and their families, often on a seasonal basis. However, it often means losing out financially or socially when leaving home, making people even more vulnerable.

4. Climate and environmental change affect different groups of people in different ways

Some of the people most affected by climate and environmental change also face the greatest barriers to mobility. This report highlights the challenges for those groups. Older people who are unable to move, for example, can end up ‘trapped’ in situations where they are highly vulnerable.

5. Policy and programmatic responses do not fully reflect emerging evidence or affected communities’ needs and experiences

Across the Sahel, national policies and laws often do not mention climate-related movement.

There isn’t enough tailored support for people left vulnerable by climate and environmental change in the research areas. Support focuses on responding to the effects of crises, rather than supporting people in preparing or adapting before the crisis hits.

Our recommendations

The British Red Cross recommends the following actions for national governments, humanitarian agencies, regional organisations and international donors:

1. Ensure that national policies, laws and programmes recognise and incorporate the complex relationship between the effects of climate change and people’s decisions to migrate.

2. People left vulnerable by the effects of climate change need better support to:

  • acknowledge the different vulnerabilities between people and groups.
  • enable people to make safe and dignified choices, because migration can be an effective coping strategy for some, but should not be the only option.
  • build community resilience, including through prevention and preparedness, long-term coping strategies and adaptation projects that are led by local communities.
  • improve access to early warning and information about changes in the climate.

"Our older men say they have never seen floods like this"

Sallah Adeen Majoub watched as the houses in his village were destroyed by the water in less than 20 minutes. Find out how his community, along with others in the Sahel, are affected by the environment.

Read the story

Man from the Sudanese Red Crescent team assists families in Sudan.

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