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Introduction to a Series on the Effects of Migration on Noncommunicable Diseases in the Sahel Region

South of the Sahara Desert and north of the tropic region lies the Sahel region of Africa. The Sahel region is a long strip of semi-arid land dense in culture, natural resources, and possibilities. Numerous states possess territory in the region including Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea. In addition, other states such as Northern Cameroon and South Algeria have reach in the region as well. Consequently, the vast area has allowed a melange of Arabic, Nomadic, Islamic, Indigenous and Traditional cultures to coexist. The Sahel region has enormous potential to emerge as a powerhouse zone in Africa. Unfortunately, issues such as political instability, civil wars, poverty, natural disasters, and ethno-religious tensions have caused unrest and mass migration.

The following series of blog reports will aim to examine the migration issue of the Sahel region in the quest to answer the following key questions: How do the issues of migration exacerbate the health of migrants, especially related to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)? What policy changes and efforts could be applied to specific states or zones to alleviate stress for migrants?

It is important to note that the aim of this series is to primarily address the effects of migration on NCDs. While the Sahel region is the area of focus, the findings of this brief can find relevance in most areas with mass migration.

Prior to examining migration in the Sahel region, it is essential to define and understand what a noncommunicable disease (NCD) is, and why they are important. An NCD is a medical condition that is both non-infectious and non-transmissible among people. NCDs account for 41 million deaths each year. Low- and middle-income nations account for 32 million of these deaths, with a disproportionate amount of early deaths between ages 30-69. Some of the most common NCDs are cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, etc. Each of these diseases have higher rates when exposed to the worsening conditions of mass migration. It is due to both the disparities for low income nations, as well as the exacerbation of NCD contributing factors from migration, that a detailed study of the effects on health from migration must be further explored.

Road Map

This series of blogs will identify the conceptual gaps to worsening NCDs through migration, as well as identify methodological gaps.  The framework linking the conceptualised worsening conditions through migration must first establish the key drivers of NCDs without migration to remain relevant with previous and future works. Key drivers of NCDs contain but are not limited to nutrition, physical activity, and socioeconomic standards. The key driver are reviewed in comparison to the strains of migration in the Sahel region to conceptualize the growing issue.  

This series of blog reports is organized as follows. Section 1 is broken into three distinct parts, nutrition, physical activity, and socioeconomic standards. Each section will review literature on the linkage to migration, then to the effects on NCDs to conceptualize the depth of the issues. Section 2 is a dissection of individual states in the Sahel region. The states’ position regarding the migration issue, steps being taken to overcome its challenges, and recognized shortcomings are further addressed. Moreover, the UN/WHO guidelines on preventative measures are used as a comparison to regulations of each state. Section 3 is a theoretical analysis of potential preventative measures, policy recommendations, and a call to higher action and collaboration. Section 4 will examine the limitations of the methodologies used for comparison and analysis in the Sahel region, and identify directions for future research. Section 5 summarizes the main conclusions of this report.



Findley, S., Traoré, S., Ouedraogo, D., & Diarra, S. (1995). Emigration from the Sahel. International Migration, 33(3-4), 469-556. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2435.1995.tb00034.x

Henry, S., Boyle, P., & Lambin, E. F. (2003). Modelling inter-provincial migration in Burkina Faso, West Africa: The role of socio-demographic and environmental factors. Applied Geography, 23(2-3), 115-136. doi:10.1016/j.apgeog.2002.08.001

Land, V. V. (2017). Migration and Environmental Change in the West African Sahel. doi:10.4324/9781315440163

Neumann, K., & Hermans, F. (2015). What Drives Human Migration in Sahelian Countries? A Meta-analysis. Population, Space and Place, 23(1). doi:10.1002/psp.1962

The Sahel: Land of Opportunities | Africa Renewal. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2020, from

Schmidhuber, J., & Shetty, P. (2005). The nutrition transition to 2030. Why developing countries are likely to bear the major burden. Food Economics - Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section C, 2(3-4), 150-166. doi:10.1080/16507540500534812

U. (2012, April 13). Sahel. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from

Venturi, B. (2018). The EU and the Sahel: A Laboratory of Experimentation for the Security–Migration–Development Nexus. Istituto Affari Internazionali.


Bio: Matthew Da Silva is a graduate from the University of Toronto earning a specialist in political science and international relations, and a certificate in global perspectives. During his education Matthew grew more interested in creating public and international policy to improve the lives of people worldwide. He will soon be entering a Master's degree in International Relations which he hopes to use to broaden his perspectives both practically and theoretical. After a mentorship with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency he began to engage in health policy. He hopes to provide meaningful work and continue learning from this opportunity.


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