The theme of CliMigHealth concerns the nexus between climate change, migration and health(care). The international community increasingly acknowledges that apart from conflict and human rights violations, climate change forms an important driver of migration. Not only does it affect agricultural production and income, leading to food insecurity; it also adversely affects health and puts pressure on health care systems in the South, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). To escape these adverse effects, migration is often a strategy of last resort. However, it can also form an adaptive health-seeking response. Migration may in turn have implications on health and access to health services of migrants, as well as of their home communities and of those where they migrate to. Yet, SSA’s weak health systems (which are constrained, understaffed, concentrated mainly in urban areas, and unbalanced in terms of appropriate skill-mix), further undermine the needed capacity to respond to climate change risks. An adequate and sustainable response or solution to the adverse human health effects of climate change in SSA requires thus a better understanding of how climate change (or environmental stress in general) impacts human health and health care and how both interact with migration. The consequences of COVID-19 add a new layer of vulnerability on already fragile populations, which might severely impact migration patterns once mobility restrictions are lifted.
The nexus between climate change, migration and health(care) is complex, and interactions, effects and feedback loops between the different driving forces and actors are not always well understood. As a result, effective solutions to this complex problem are not readily available. Moreover, the Global South is highly underrepresented in this research field. Given the degree of urgency to understand and address the adverse impacts of climate change, especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences on the different dimensions of the nexus, aligning the different research centers working on these topics is vital.
This is where the network aims to make a contribution. The primary goal of CliMigHealth is to improve understanding of the climate change, migration and health(care) nexus and to make UGent a pioneering center of excellence on this highly underexplored topic by (i) integrating UGent’s academic expertise on the various dimensions of and interactions between the climate change-migration-health(care) nexus (relation between climate change and migration, between migration and health or health care, between climate change and health, …) which obviously cut across disciplines, in order to develop guiding research and policy frameworks; and (ii) strengthening own and partner’s interdisciplinary capacity in developing comprehensive and sustainable responses (research, policy recommendations and capacity building). To that end, CliMigHealth will primarily be a collaborative platform to strengthen existing networks and establish new ones, and to scale up their interdisciplinary collaboration to further explore and connect the key elements within the nexus, and to address the complex migration and health(care) issues arising from climate change.
There are currently 13 Ugent promotors involved from 6 faculties (Bioscience Engineering, Economics and Business Administration, Medicine and Health Sciences, Psychology and Educational Sciences, Political and Social Sciences, Law and Criminology). Moreover, the network is composed in such a way that involvement from and ownership by the South is secured. The majority of the international partners are located in Africa, but also partners from North America, Oceania and Europe are involved, including four UNU institutes (UNU-CRIS, UNU-MERIT, UNU-INWEH and UNU-EHS).