Climate, hunger, and migration


By Karyn Bigelow

In 2020, more than 61 percent of the families apprehended at the U.S. border were coming from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras). In the Northern Triangle, more than half of the population lives below their national poverty lines.

Before COVID-19, more than 42.5 million people reported experiencing hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean. Hunger rates have likely increased due to COVID-19. Hunger pushes many migrants from the Northern Triangle to flee from their home countries, which is becoming a bigger problem because of climate change.

Food systems are weak in the Northern Triangle due to issues such as climate change and a lack of accessibility to food. In 2014, a drought destroyed 63 percent of Guatemala’s bean production, 70 percent of Honduras’s corn crops, and damaged crop cultivation in 30 percent of El Salvador’s farmland. Agricultural losses due to climate change-induced drought is a major push factor for migration in the Northern Triangle.

The Northern Triangle has over 470,000 people displaced worldwide. By 2050, climate change-induced drought, natural disasters, and other environmental changes could force 200 million people globally to leave their homes due to hunger.

As the world attempts to recover from COVID-19, the U.S. is poised to make policy that will shape the future of anti-hunger, migration, and climate movements for years to come.

Approaches to immigration policy must consider factors in the home countries of immigrants. Undocumented immigration and climate change are hunger issues and symptoms of food systems that do not work for everyone.

Karyn Bigelow is a climate change research analyst and project manager at Bread for the World Institute.

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