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When home is stolen: stories from the frontlines of climate migration

When home is stolen: stories from the frontlines of climate migration

Increasing numbers of people are forced into migration from climate change – but lack legal protection as refugees

Before 7 November 2013, climate change felt like a far-off prospect for Filipino teenager Marinel Ubaldo. The 16-year-old youth leader was already involved in climate change education in her isolated coastal hometown of Matarinao in the Eastern Visayas region – a group of islands on the Pacific edge of the Philippines archipelago. “Back then, it felt like something that would happen in like 50 or 100 years,” she says.

But that day, everything changed. Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical storms ever recorded, hit the Philippines. At least 6,300 people died in that country alone, and around 4.1 million were displaced. The Eastern Visayas were hardest-hit, with the highest death rate of any region. The country has always experienced typhoons; climate change, however, is making them more powerful, and more dangerous.

Ubaldo and her family made it to an evacuation center, but their home was destroyed, and most of their belongings were washed away by waves. The village was cut off from communications, electricity and fresh water for weeks, and the villagers survived on whatever they could forage amongst the ruins until they were spotted by a passing helicopter.

Since then, life has been challenging for many of Matarinao’s residents. Fisherpeople, like Ubaldo’s father, lost their boats in the storm, and marine life was severely depleted by the disaster. Soil fertility in the area dropped, too. “So it was really hard for fishermen and farmers to maintain their livelihoods,” said Ubaldo, “and some of them are now migrating to other places, because there is no way for them to make a living here.”

Ubaldo’s family rebuilt their home, but then on Christmas Eve last year, another typhoon destroyed it.
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