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).
To assist researchers, communities and policymakers in low- and middle income-countries to adapt to, mitigate and prepare for current and future effects of climate change and migration on health and health care services and to develop more resilient and responsive health systems.\
- Mission: In order to contribute towards this vision, the network has the following mission statement that defines its work.
- CliMigHealth is an international interdisciplinary thematic network which aims to explore the nexus between climate change, migration, health and health care. To this end, CliMigHealth integrates diverse academic expertise on the various dimensions of and interactions in the nexus, which cut across disciplines. The network will guide more comprehensive and sustainable responses to address the complex migration and health(care) issues arising from climate change. CliMigHealth also strengthens interdisciplinary educational, research and knowledge translation capacity in low- and middle income countries, with a particular focus on the African region.
- CliMigHealth primarily forms a collaborative platform between academics in the North and academics in the South. The network is composed in such a way that involvement from and ownership by the South is secured, thereby integrating a human rights based and equity-focused socially accountable multi-perspective approach.
- Strategies: In order to achieve the mission, the network will engage with the following activities.
- Research: The network (i) collects ‘grass root’ information on the impact of the climate change, migration and health(care) nexus on those affected and those at risk’; (ii) increases the knowledge base and understanding of the nexus’ complex mechanisms; and (iii) elaborates meaningful (health care) solutions to address the adverse health outcomes of climate change and migration. Research within the network is interdisciplinary, embraces a wide variety of methodologies and fosters collaboration between and within researchers in the South and the North. This should allow evaluation of health-determining interventions at micro, meso and macro level with special attention to what works, for whom, and where. Research findings from multiple disciplines (health sciences, social and political sciences, environmental and bio-engineering, economical) will be integrated in order to inform policy and policymakers.
- Education: CliMigHealth will provide support to existing interdisciplinary and international educational programs and will attract international students with various backgrounds and nationalities. Also in terms of education activities, the emphasis will be on interdisciplinary exchange, systems thinking, a complexity perspective around the nexus, and away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Service to society: Through the network, CliMigHealth partners will offer scientific advice to policymakers (on request or on own initiative), organise participatory knowledge transfer of evidence-based information with civil society organisations, find the best solutions together with local stakeholders, and provide scientific input for NGOs and activist organizations with an emphasis on independence and scientific integrity. CliMigHealth will be able to build on the solid expertise of the network partners in translating research into policy advice for private and public decision makers and effective interventions, which will prove invaluable to endorse and add value to the findings produced within CliMigHealth. Finally, the network offers a platform where knowledge on the nexus between climate change, migration and health(care) is brought together to cater information seekers and to raise awareness around the theme among the broad public.