Media Center

Press Release

Hunger: One of the Main Causes of Migration to the United States in the “Dry Corridor” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according to New Report

  August 23, 2017

A new report presented today at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) finds that migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to the United States is motivated in large part by poverty and hunger, aggravated by drought conditions associated with the El Niño phenomenon that began in 2014.

The report "Food Security and Emigration: Why people flee and the impact on family members left behind in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras" analyzes the connection between food insecurity and migration in the these Central American nations, particularly in one of the most vulnerable areas of the region known as "The Dry Corridor", which crosses all three countries.

At the opening of the event, OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez said, “without human rights there is no social inclusion nor democracy nor societies in peace. When millions of our fellow citizens are hungry, when the benefits of development do not reach everyone, when wealth is only shared by some, we cannot ensure a democratic path for our region.”

According to the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Food Programme (WPF), Miguel Barreto, “The study provides an important insight into why people flee and the impact on the family members staying behind.” “It is perhaps this second aspect which makes this study stand out from much of the analysis conducted on migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to date,” added Barreto.

For his part, the Foreign Minister of El Salvador, Hugo Martinez, agreed with the study that there is a "clear link between food security and migration." "The impact of climate change is very drastic in the Dry Corridor and particularly in El Salvador. In 2015 alone we lost 470,000 tons of maize, and about 6,000 tons of beans."

Guatemala's Minister of Food Security and Nutrition, German González, also indicated that his country is suffering from the effects of climate change, and mentioned the damages caused by the phenomenon of El Niño in the last five years. "The rainfall deficit has caused damages and losses in the basic grain crops of the Dry Corridor farmers, and this situation affected the capacity of response and the nutritional security in the short and medium term."

Meanwhile, Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister María Andrea Matamoros said that despite the "political will" of her government to improve the lives of communities in the Dry Corridor, the migration issue "remains a challenge for government and society because it is a highly complex, changing and somewhat ironic issue, in the sense - and as we saw it reflected in the study - many times people leave our countries fleeing poverty and violence, only to find themselves facing greater poverty and violence on the road.”

The report shows the need to invest in long-term programs to discourage people in the Dry Corridor from migrating, reduce the dangers faced by migrants on their trip to the north, and the impact on families left behind after the departure of the strongest members of the family nucleus in search of better opportunities.

The report states that in 2016, 47 percent of households in the Dry Corridor of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras where some of their members had migrated were food insecure.

Among the other findings of the report:
• The poor living conditions faced by communities living in the Dry Corridor have caused an increase of migrants to the north.
• In fiscal year 2016, the US Migration and Customs Enforcement (CBP) detained more than 400,000 undocumented people on the southern border, of whom nearly 60,000 were under the age of 16, most of them from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
• There is a clear link between food insecurity and migration.
• 58 percent of the households interviewed for this study in the Dry Corridor spend more than two-thirds of their income on food, which shows a high level of economic vulnerability.
• 42 percent of the households interviewed in Guatemala showed worrying levels of food consumption with poor or borderline status.
• Violence plays an important role as a trigger for migration in El Salvador, but it is a less important cause in Guatemala and Honduras.
• 79 percent of migrants are men between the ages of 20 and 29
• Half of the deportees worked in agriculture before leaving.

The presentation of the report included presentations by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez, his Guatemalan counterpart, Carlos Raúl Morales; and the Deputy Minister for International Cooperation of Honduras, María Andrea Matamoros.

The research is a follow-up to the findings and recommendations of the exploratory study on the links between migration, violence and food security, "Hunger without Borders," published in 2015.

During the event, OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez and WFP Executive Director David Beasley also signed a Joint Declaration on Agenda 2030 to support the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in achieving the 17 Goals of Sustainable Development (ODS), especially ODS 2 "Zero Hunger".

Reference: E-065/17