Rouhandeh, Alex J. 2021. Natural Disasters, Famine and Gangs Driving Central Americans’ Mass Migration to U.S. Newsweek 26 March <https://www.newsweek.com/natural-disasters-famine-gangs-driving-central-americans-mass-migration-us-1579004>.
“In Central America everything is related,” Elizabeth Kennedy, a migration researcher based in Honduras told Newsweek. “In El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras many people live in unending crisis.”
As an American social scientist who’s conducted research for Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Kennedy said she can afford to shield herself from the direct effects of climate change while living in Honduras. But most people in the country do not have that luxury.
One of those “luxuries” is actually one of the essentials of life—fresh water.
For about half of last year, water was rationed in Honduras due to national shortages. Kennedy’s well was replenished once a week, although it wasn’t always completely refilled. In poorer areas, water was often delivered every three weeks or once a month.
“That coincided with the beginning of the pandemic when everyone would be told to wash their hands,” she said.
Addressing the underlying issues of migration means supporting the region’s infrastructure. Kennedy said construction projects, buildings, and parks remain ill-equipped to sustain damage caused by environmental disasters. She said that in many areas houses are built on ground prone to landslides and mudslides during heavy rain.
In some towns the primary water source is a community well, and in all three countries many bodies of water remain heavily polluted.
She said that ultimately environmental stability in the region is dependent upon the world’s ability to respond to climate change. Absent an effective response, the issues and the problems they create will only get worse.
“Geographically, the region is highly susceptible (to climate change),” Kennedy said. “This past year you’ve had a layering of crises with the environmental crises, the global pandemic crisis, and the ongoing crisis of very high levels of violence. It doesn’t have to be that way.”