Paper: Climate vulnerability of encamped refugee populations: conceptualising potential vulnerability pathways and their consequences for the durable solutions

Paper details

Paper authors Alexander Hunns; Sonja Fransen; Talitha Mortimer Dubow
In panel on Examining humanitarian action for forced migration: Approaches to the needs of vulnerable groups on the move in crises
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its clearest warnings to date in early 2023 on the effects of climate change. The effects of climate change will cause weather extremes in all regions of the world, with areas of high human vulnerability to the effects of climate change also those facing - inter alia - poverty-induced suffering, structural development problems. Populations display degrees of heterogeneity in the extent of their risk of climate hazards. Exposure interacts with sensitivity and adaptive capacity to create risk of harm. Forcibly displaced populations - and associated host populations – are currently bearing the costs of climate hazards, including deadly flash floods in South Sudan and a drought in Kenya. Recent work has sought to fill a substantial research gap quantitatively assessing the extent to which refugee camps are exposed to slow and rapid onset climate hazards and assessing the extent to which forcibly displaced populations are vulnerable and able to adapt to climate hazards. However, to our knowledge there is no comprehensive framework that specifically conceptualises the vulnerability of refugee populations to climate hazards. This work extends previous understandings of refugee vulnerability (Sabates-Wheeler [2019]) by drawing on the social vulnerability literature and identifies the innate, situational and structural vulnerabilities specific to displaced populations (Adger [1999]; Otto et al. [2017]). The absence of a framework conceptualising the interplay between humanitarian encampments and climate risks may have consequences in the short, medium and long term. In the short term, there may be a tension between humanitarian programming and programming that accounts for the identified risks. In addition, in the long term, the lack of framework may compromise our understanding of the sustainability, suitability and potential effectiveness of the three Durable Solutions. In this pair of papers, we will begin to formalise the potential pathways through which our conceptualisation of vulnerability to climate risks influence the sphere of humanitarian programming. We will enrich this conceptualisation with our experience conducting research in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps.