Caring for the environment, a solution to forced migrations due to the climate in Haiti

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The August earthquake that hit the country and the impact of the climate crisis has led to an increase in migrations. The unsafe displacement that many Haitians are forced into could be reduced thanks to an eco-initiative that aims to tackle environmental degradation.

The proposal launched by the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) would not only improve the environment, but could also provide new housing that is resistant to natural disasters.

On the eve of International Migrants Day, which is celebrated each year on December 18, UN Haiti analyzes how recycling could help people stay in their country of origin rather than risk emigrating through unofficial or irregular routes.

UN Haiti / Daniel Dickinson

A plastics recycling sign in French.

What is the state of the environment in Haiti?

Haiti’s natural environment has been in decline for a long time; Soil erosion and landslides related to deforestation, increased pollution and waste as a consequence of urbanization, and a series of natural disasters have led to the deterioration of the ecosystem. The effects of climate change have only aggravated the current situation.

These conditions weaken the country, causing food insecurity and increased migration.

One of Haiti’s problems is waste management, which is still very rudimentary and much worse than in other countries in the region. Recycling would mean reducing waste and mitigating the natural environment, as well as a number of other benefits, albeit on a small scale.

UN News / Source: IOM

According to the most recent estimate, in 2020 there were approximately 281 million international migrants in the world, a figure equivalent to 3.6% of the world’s population.

What are the migration trends in Haiti?

An increasing number of migrants are leaving Haiti for various reasons today. Poverty and economic factors, such as lack of jobs and opportunities, are among the main reasons, but security concerns, especially in the capital, Port-au-Prince, are also significant.

The August 2021 earthquake and other issues closely related to climate are other reasons that lead many people to leave their homes.

Migration is not the problem; What is worrying is that the majority of those who migrate are the poorest and in a vulnerable situation. So they are more likely to migrate via irregular routes, such as by sea, which is often more dangerous than a planned migration.

Migration and climate

One of the causes for leaving the country of origin is the inability to maintain the means of subsistence; This is especially the case in rural areas.

Ecological devastation increases the possibility of hurricanes, floods, droughts and earthquakes, to which Haiti is already especially susceptible. This combination of elements causes people to find themselves in situations of instability, especially when they cannot access a job or basic services such as health care and education.

Research indicates that when people are more vulnerable, especially due to these types of extreme events, they are more likely to migrate in search of greater security and, ultimately, a better life.

IOM

Waste management in Haiti lags far behind other countries in the region.

Plastics recycling, a solution for Haiti

Recycling plastics can contribute to a cleaner, less polluted and therefore healthier environment. In addition, it creates jobs, which gives people a reason to stay in their country.

The UN agency project, in collaboration with the Haitian government and recycling organizations, aims to multiply the advantages of reuse.

To do this, it will develop an innovative and sustainable building material from plastic waste, which can be used to build stronger houses that can withstand extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes and floods, and natural phenomena, such as earthquakes.

This will mean that fewer people in Haiti would be forced to move out of their country.

But recycling is not the only solution

Recycling is just one of the many interventions that can curb environmental erosion and help curb irregular and unsafe migratory movements.

This project could also serve to create synergies with other aspects of an environmental and climate action agenda, such as reforestation, sustainable energy production and a circular economy in which material considered as waste is reused rather than disposed of.

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