New Study Highlights Food Insecurity as Driver of Migration in Central America

Published on 17 September 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS), today released the findings of an exploratory study into the interaction of hunger, violence and migration and the impact on the lives of thousands of vulnerable people living in the Northern Triangle of Central America.

According to the study “Hunger without Borders”these three factors are intertwined, especially when the three countries studied (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras), are suffering the effects of prolonged dry spells or droughts for the second consecutive year.

“Migration has always been linked to income disparities between countries, socio-economic instability, and population pressures; however, this is the first time food insecurity has been specifically singled out as a trigger for migration,” said WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto. “This exploratory study is important because it underscores the need to invest in food security to prevent migration.”

“This study launched with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS), and the collaboration of the London School of Economics (LSE), sheds light on the increase reliance on migration as a coping mechanism among the people living in the Northern Triangle of Central America,” said IOM Regional Director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Marcelo Pisani. “It raises awareness of the current situation affecting millions of vulnerable people in the region.”

“Migrants are, first and foremost, human beings with human rights, and those rights are and must be at the center of any debates on migrants and migratory policies,” said OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. “Today as we launch this study, it is an opportunity to reiterate that this phenomenon demands the united efforts of international cooperation to meet the needs of a part of the population as vulnerable as migrants.”

A WFP food security assessment carried out in 2014 among families affected by the drought in Central America found that a significant percentage of households reported at least one family member migrating in search of employment. 

A severe prolonged drought in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has affected the food security of subsistence farmers and their families living in the Dry Corridor, many of whom only harvest once a year, and are struggling to recover from last year’s drought. The forecasts for the 2015 agricultural season are alarming, especially with the occurrence of El Niño, which may last until the beginning of 2016.

The study also found that violence could be a push factor for outward migration in Guatemala and Honduras but not necessarily in El Salvador. This might be explained by the fact that some people have become accustomed to violence, and in some cases it no longer influences their decision to migrate or not.

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To download an electronic copy of the study click here

About IOM
IOM Washington is the U.S. bureau for the International Organization for Migration whose headquarters are located in Geneva. Since 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration. Its mission is to promote humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all.

About OAS
The Organization of American States (OAS) brings together the nations of the Western hemisphere to promote democracy, strengthen human rights, foster peace, security and cooperation and advance common interests.

About WFP
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

For more information please contact: 

IOM/USA: Hajer Naili Tel. +1 202 862 1826 ext. 243, Mob. +1 917 889 5982. hnaili@iom.int
OAS/ Gina Ochoa  Tel. +1 202 370 9737 gochoa@oas.org
WFP /Latin America: Alejandro Chicheri, Mob. +507 6671 5355, alejandro.chicheri@wfp.org
WFP /USA: Steve Taravella, Tel. +1-202-653-1149, Mob. +1-202 770 5993, steve.taravella@wfp.org