Examining relationships between extreme heat and migration/ displacement and human mobility in Zacapa, Guatemala

This research is carried out by Dr. Edgar Miguel López Álvarez, MD1, Prof. Gabriel Andre Azurdia Mijangos2, Luis R. Torres-Hostos, PhD3, Anna Erwin, PhD4, Rubén A. Mazariegos, PhD5 with funding support from the Global Disaster Preparedness Center.

This research examines the relationships between extreme heat and migration/ displacement/ human mobility, using a mixed quantitative and qualitative analysis of the sociodemographic, attitudinal conditions, labor practices, perceptions and impact of the phenomenon of “Extreme Heat” and “Climate Change” in two communities of the Department of Zacapa, Guatemala in the “Corredor Seco en Centro América (Dry Corridor of Central America)”. interdisciplinary, collaborative effort illuminate contextual insights into how people experience extreme heat across Zacapa. Our climatological analysis shows that, indeed, heat waves in Zacapa are intensifying. Our qualitative interview data shows that people are experiencing extreme heat, in addition to related changes in water scarcity, deforestation, and economic challenges. Results also indicate that extreme heat, when intersecting with economic challenges, can further increase the adverse impact of extreme heat across both locations. Relatedly, interviewees also shared that people largely migrate to the United States and other international locations because of economic stress. This was particularly prevalent in the rural municipality of Estanzuela. We also found that people were adapting to these changes by conducting reforestation activities, wearing long sleeved shirts and hats, using fans inside their homes, and occasionally, visiting cooler places during the hotter months. They largely used cell phones, social media (WhatsApp and Facebook), the internet, and radio to communicate and learn about extreme heat.

Moving forward, interviewees recommended that organizations help community members with securing employment and thus decreasing how extreme heat and related changes impact their livelihoods. They also recommended that organizations communicate details about extreme heat through the radio and the internet. People also expressed that increasing the capacity of public health centers to support communities during heat waves would be critical. Finally, many interviewees worked in agriculture and forestry and recommended supporting those industries by conducting reforestation activities and providing seeds to local people as context-specific adaptation strategies.

1 Universidad Rafael Landívar, Guatemala, Dean, School of Health Sciences
2 Universidad Rafael Landívar Guatemala, Project Manager, School of Health Sciences
3 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Founding Dean and Professor, School of Social Work
4 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Associate Professor, School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences (SEEMS)
5 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Associate Professor, School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences (SEEMS)

Guatemale Heat Perceptions Research by Edgar M. L. Alvarez 2022

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