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22 March 2018

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Sahara Desert in Sabha, Libya. ©Mahmoud Erhoma

Running Dry: Providing Water in One of the World’s Driest Countries

Meeting the water needs of conflict-affected communities in Southern Libya 

IOM – Libya is among the most water scarce countries in the world.

The Sahara Desert covers around 90 per cent of its territory and the more south you go, the warmer and drier the climate and ground get. A rapidly increasing population – likely to reach 12 million by 2025 from less than one million in 1955  – enduring local conflicts and national instability have intensified the challenge presented by Libya’s sparse supply of water.

Communities in southern Libya crucially rely on water wells to extract water, which through the connection to the water well network, reaches peoples’ individual homes.

Over the past few years, many wells have fallen into disrepair or were not connected to the electricity grid, with no means of fixing these issues locally. As a result, families in Sabha and Qatroun faced extreme shortages of water, particularly in remote areas.

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A child accessing fresh water in Papua New Guinea. © IOM

Water Scarcity: a Driver of Migration

IOM – The international community has, for good reason, sought to emphasize the importance of migration as a global public policy issue.

With heightened awareness of the multiple implications of poorly managed migration, and with the international community focused on developing a new global compact to address it, the opportunity for a more nuanced, more sophisticated approach to migration has presented itself.

With this has come the opportunity to better understand migration and its links with other policy issues that at first thought might seem unrelated.

Take, for example, the issue of water.

Owing to its centrality to sustainable development and, indeed, to life as we know it, water and its relationship to migration is an emerging field of study that requires attention and action.

Although the links are not always straightforward, researchers have nonetheless begun to delve deeper into the issue in order to better chart the implications of these two policy domains and their intersections.

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“Climate change impacts water resources which in turn compels populations to migrate.”
William Swing addressing the 9th World Water Forum in Brazil



Nazir and his daughters Zahra and Zainab: "It’s very nice in Greece, but we plan to leave with family reunification."

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Migration in the News

  • NPR reported that testimonies recorded by their team suggest a pattern of slave-trade abuses of migrants detained in Libya.
  • Fars News Agency reported that girls in their early teens who have fled persecution in Myanmar to seek safety are being trafficked into prostitution in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
  • New Strait Times published an op-ed which noted that the world’s largest refugee camp for Rohingyas in Bangladesh faces a looming disaster as early as next month when the first storms of the monsoon season hit.
  • Africa 24 Monde, VOA, RFI, and another VOA article reported about the G5 Sahel meeting on human smuggling, held in Niger.
  • Radio New Zealand reported that trauma from last month's big earthquake in Papua New Guinea's highlands is still too fresh for many communities to return to their villages.

Trending on the Internet

  • Thomson Reuters Foundation reported that water stress is increasingly driving migration around the world, but efforts to adapt to worsening shortages could help, a new UN study suggests.
  • IPS published an op-ed on the occasion of World Water Day which noted that nature-based solutions are the answer to many problems related to water, such as droughts and floods that are alternating with increasing frequency around the world, and to pollution.
  • BBC reported that increased migration, especially in cities, brings people with a wide variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds into close contact and is likely to contribute to an environment with more opportunities for language learning.


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