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FEATURE: Climate Displacement and Resilient Communities – Lessons from the case of Manatí, Colombia

According to the International Organization for Migration, climate related migrations will increase because of climate change. This poses new challenges that range from the individual including the psychological level, to broader economic and social dynamics, legal and judicial frameworks, institutions and governance issues, and the adaptation of policies to face climate change and manage risk.

In 2010 and 2011, the extreme weather phenomenon known as ‘La Niña’ or the ‘Winter Wave’  resulted in 175,000 displaced people in the southern part of the Department of Atlántico in Colombia and in the displacement of 320 families from the town of Manatí, located in the Caribbean Region. The vulnerability of local populations to climate disasters was evident. 

The Universidad del Norte-led project Growing up in Adversity conducted a study on the effects of displacement in the community of Manatí in the southern region of Atlántico. The results show that people who have been displaced  due to climate phenomena are in need of support to strengthen individual resilience, such as self esteem and social skills.

The strategies implemented by the project include psychological assistance through information and communication technology (ICTs). The findings are summarised in a newly released Policy Brief by the Universidad del Norte. The brief presents the methodology of psycho-social intervention that was implemented among 90 families in a shelter in Manatí, following the floodings of 2010-2011.

The document further explores the importance of the psycho-social dimension, both as a strategy for prevention and attention to populations affected by disasters and to achieve greater resilience in climate-vulnerable communities.

Finally, the brief makes a series of recommendations for policy-makers. The team suggests that using ICTs for psychological assistance are an efficient measure that could be incorporated into government disaster responses. Such actions are complimentary to emergency relief, support the reconstruction of social networks in communities and are a point of departure for other forms of development. For these reasons they should be incorporated into policies for adaptation to climate change, risk and disaster management.

Image: Flooded Home in Colombia, courtesy of World Bank (Flickr).

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