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What does Covid-19 mean for people displaced by climate change?

Source(s):  Le Monde

By Alex Randall


When people are displaced by sudden, climate-related event they tend not to move far. They usually flee to immediate places of safety or to evacuation centres. During a pandemic, however, this displacement comes with incredibly dangerous complications. Cities that are in lockdown will have to decide whether or not to attempt to stop people fleeing. The potential for confusion and violence is huge.

City authorities will also have to decide whether it is even possible to provide emergency evacuation spaces — those municipal buildings (schools, sports centres etc) in which large groups of people are crammed during a weather emergency. At the moment such spaces would present an incredible public health risk, given the way Covid-19 spreads.


Sudden displacement is not the only way climate change, human movement and Covid-19 collide — many people across the developing world also migrate to cities to find work as a means of coping with slowly unfolding climate impacts like drought. As urban economies grind to a halt, many will find themselves trapped in the drought-stricken countryside. Others will be forced to leave the cities to which they have moved, and return to environmentally vulnerable rural areas.

In many cities lockdowns have caused the closure of thousands of businesses that employ migrants. But the drivers are global too. As richer countries shutter their high street shops, retailers halt the manufacture of goods like clothes and electronics which are primarily produced in cities in the global South.


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  • Publication date 08 Apr 2020

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