Motherhood & Forced Climate Migration in Marathwada, India

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As the number of climate migrants rises exponentially due to the dire state of the climate crisis and warming planet, drought-prone areas like the Indian state of Maharashtra are most at risk of displacing their population. In Maharashtra, millions of civilians were forced to move to bigger cities in search for water, such as Mumbai and Pune. In particular, it was found that pregnant migrant mothers bore the brunt of adverse health conditions within these journeys and relocations.

Scholars Ashish Pardhi, Suresh Jungari, Parshuram Kale and Priyanka Bomble’s explore this topic and others in their article, “Migrant motherhood: Maternal and child health care utilization of forced migrants in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India,” (March 2020).

Here is an excerpt:

There is growing concern that climate change will lead to more frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters that could adversely affect short- and long-term health outcomes of the affected populations in developing countries (Datar et al., 2013, Rodriguez-Llanes et al., 2011). India is one of the most vulnerable drought-prone countries in the world. Large parts of the country have experienced a drought at least once every three years in the last five decades. Since the mid-nineties, the frequency of droughts have increased and there have been prolonged and widespread droughts in consecutive years (Mishra & Singh, 2010).

In 2015, the Government of Maharashtra had declared a “drought-like condition” in 14,708 villages of the state where about 34% of the state was affected by drought. The Marathwada region of Maharashtra was the worst affected and declared nearly all 8,522 villages affected by drought. In the three years since then, the region received insufficient rain, thus worsening the crisis. Due to the persistent drought, millions of people were forced to leave their homes and move to bigger cities like Mumbai and Pune in search of work and water. Most of the families which migrated included elderly people, pregnant women and children. These migrants do not have homes in the city with many living in makeshift shelters on construction sites, footpaths, under bridges in Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, and other areas. The living condition of the forced migrant’s population is challenging with limited job opportunities. With many migrants unable to find employment, their vulnerability has increased and more so among the women and children.

Several studies have also found that migrant women who are pregnant are less likely to get maternal and healthcare services, vaccination, adequate nutrition, sufficient rest and peace of mind at their destinations (Stephenson and Matthews, 2004, Almeida et al., 2013, Abrol et al., 2008, Sudhinaraset et al., 2016, Bollini et al., 2009, Gawde et al., 2016, Nitika et al., 2014). Studies also show that children in the forced migration children are at greater risk of diseases because they miss immunization schedules against life threatening diseases, are not exclusively breastfed and do not get adequate nutritional supplements (Hildebrandt and McKenzie, 2005, Kusuma et al., 2010, Pakhare et al., 2014, Kusuma et al., 2018a). A study by Upadhyay et al. (2017) documented that forced migration during infancy has a significant adverse effect on a child’s cognitive well-being at later age.

Read the complete article here.


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