A crowd of South Sudanese refugees at Palorinya Refugee Settlement, Uganda, February 2017.
Photo: © WFP/Claire Neville

Food insecurity pushes global migration

A study by WFP shows that high levels of food insecurity lead to higher levels of migration across borders. Nevertheless, many displaced people try to stay as close as possible to their hometowns, hoping to re-migrate some day.

A study, published by the World Food Programme (WFP) in May 2017 determined that each one- percentage increase in food insecurity in a population compels 1.9 per cent more people to migrate. Further, 0.4 per cent more people flee a country for each additional year of conflict. This means that a country with rising levels of food insecurity and conflict will experience greater outward migration, or movement of people away from their homes.

WFP also found that food insecurity is a significant cause for the incidence – and intensity – of armed conflict. Once a migrant’s journey has begun, lack of employment combined with little or no access to food and other humanitarian assistance are significant push factors that compel people to continue to move. Moreover, as people seek to reduce their food insecurity through migration, the act of migration itself can cause food insecurity, given the costs and often hazardous conditions along the journey.

Displaced people stay as close as possible to their homes

The international community must invest in food security and livelihoods at or near people’s place of origin, recommend the experts from WFP. Doing so may prevent further displacement, reduce forced onward migration, result in more cost-effective humanitarian interventions and yield greater socioeconomic benefits now and in the long term.

The study determined that people who are displaced often do not want to move from their homes, and try to stay as close to their place of origin as possible. Nearly eight in ten Syrian refugee families interviewed had been internally displaced inside Syria at least once, and 65 percent twice or more. Almost every single Syrian participant in the study strongly affirmed a desire to return to Syria if the situation stabilised and security prevailed.

Migrants from West and East Africa as well firstly moved within their own countries, mostly from rural areas to bigger urban areas or the capital city. Among these migrants from East and West
Africa, food insecurity and resource constraints are key drivers for outward migration. Triggers for migration from Syria, however, are lack of safety and security.

More Information: “2017 - At the Root of Exodus: Food security, conflict and international Migration"

(WFP/ile)