The effects of food aid on household migration patterns and implications for emergency food assessments

Research reports and studies
November 2005
Laura Hammond, Jennifer Bush, Kevin Savage and Paul Harvey

Many of the people that the World Food Programme (WFP) assists in its emergency programmes have migrated as a result of a natural or human-made disaster. Often, the objectives of food aid programmes have been framed around the objective of preventing distress migration or responding to the food aid needs of populations that have already been displaced. It is also increasingly being recognised that migration already plays an important role in the normal livelihoods of people, as well as during crisis.

This paper examines migration as it is practiced by people not only as a result of a crisis, but also as a strategy to reduce vulnerability and to maximise income prior to or during a crisis. In some cases, households or individuals may decide to migrate to areas where they can obtain employment, natural resources or other sources of income to help reduce the impact of the crisis. In others, people may decide to migrate to places where food aid or another type of assistance is available. Often, migration is as much about finding protection, safety and security as it is about taking advantage of available assistance. Access to food aid or other forms of assistance is seldom the only determinant in people’s decisions about where to move during crisis, and it is important that assessments maintain a realistic view of the relative importance of relief aid within the survival strategies of disaster-affected populations.

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