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Resilient public health in the context of large-scale, drought-related migration in East Africa: Knowledge status and knowledge needs

Research project Over ten million people are currently at risk of famine in East Africa, as a result of the latest drought to hit the region.

Driven by climate change and political instability, people are being forced to migrate in order to survive. This places a severe burden on public health systems providing life-saving services such as vaccination and maternal and child care. The region’s climate efforts must include adaptation of health systems so that the effects of this drought-related migration are taken into account. Working in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, this project will identify knowledge status and needs regarding current and projected climatic and environmental changes in the region, their impacts on migration and, subsequently, public health. Our team includes six partners from the three countries. These will support the project’s logistical and scientific work, and will be critical in identifying key stakeholders in each country and facilitating data collection, analysis, and dissemination. The project will synthesise documentary evidence from international and national sources, supplemented by interviews with stakeholders and experts in each of the three countries. A preliminary analysis of this material will be discussed at a cross-country validation workshop, from which we will produce a set of conclusions regarding knowledge status and needs of public health providers as well as recommendations for possible solutions in order to build climate-resilient health services.

Head of project

Barbara Schumann
Research fellow

Project overview

Project period:

2018-01-01 2019-12-31


Formas, 2018: SEK 1,493,000

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Epidemiology and Global Health

Research area

Public health and health care science

Project description

Aims and Objectives

The ongoing drought in East Africa reflects a chronic, intensifying emergency, caused by climate change and land degradation. Droughts constitute a massive public health risk for vulnerable communities in the region: millions are at risk of famine, with hundreds of thousands considered to be environmental refugees. This poses a tremendous challenge for health services in host communities and refugee camps.

The aim of this project is to synthesize the knowledge status of, and to identify knowledge gaps regarding the public health implications of large-scale climate-related migration in East Africa (Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia). It also aims to outline potential solutions for ensuring climate-resilient health systems.

Objective A. Synthesize knowledge about climate and environmental changes in East Africa
Based on reports, scientific publications and interviews, we will:
- Summarize knowledge about observed and projected climate and environmental changes, in particular regarding droughts, land degradation and desertification;
- Highlight the implications of these for agriculture and water and food safety;
- Identify uncertainties and knowledge needs.

Objective B: Synthesize knowledge status and needs about public health impacts of drought-related migration in East Africa
Based on written documentation and stakeholder interviews, we will synthesize knowledge status and needs regarding the implications of large-scale drought-related migration for health systems. Specifically, we will assess knowledge status and needs of health care providers and health policy makers regarding:
- Health status and health care needs of drought-related migrants, especially mother and child health;
- Health care access for migrants in host communities and refugee camps;
- Climate efforts regarding best practices for building resilient health systems.

Objective C: Overall synthesis and recommendations
By integrating findings of Objectives A and B, we will:
- Synthesise the knowledge status and knowledge gaps regarding climatic and environmental drivers of migration and the implications for health systems;
- Engage with stakeholders to produce recommendations for climate-resilient health care systems for migrants and host communities;
- Disseminate insights and recommendations to users and the international scientific community.