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"For a better life..." : a study on migration and health in Nicaragua
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Geography and Economic History, Economic and social geography.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
"För ett bättre liv..." : en studie om migration och hälsa i Nicaragua (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores and analyses the manifold relations between migration and health, what I call the migration-health nexus, in the contemporary Nicaraguan context. The study is based on fieldwork in León and Cuatro Santos and a mixed-methods approach combining qualitative in-depth interviews and quantitative survey data. In the thesis health is “traced” within the migration process; i.e. in places of origin, during travel, at the destination and after return, including the situation and consequences for both migrants and family members to migrants (“left-behinds”). The study shows that migration-health relations in Nicaragua are connected to broader economic, social and political factors and to the country’s historical experiences of colonization, neo-colonization and structural adjustments. Contemporary Nicaraguan migrations are primarily related to the strategies of making a living and the struggle for a better life (i.e. a practice of mobile livelihoods). In the study setting health concerns were both indirectly embedded in people’s mobile livelihoods, as well as directly influencing decisions to move or to stay, and migration involved both advantages and disadvantages for health. Through migration, women could see an end to physical violence and sexual abuse. Internal migrants could improve their access to health care and medicine. Vulnerabilities related to the unpredictable nature conditions could be avoided through moving. And, through the money made from migrant work people’s everyday lives and health could be improved, in terms of better nutrition, housing, and access to education, health care and medicine. However, remittances do not necessarily lead to development, as they are used to compensate for the lacking public sector in Nicaragua. Under these circumstances, I argue that the Nicaraguan population is not guaranteed their social rights of citizenship. I also argue that the negative aspects surrounding migration must be taken into account when discussing the development potentials of migration and remittances. Both internal and international migrants in this study experienced stress while moving to a new place. International migrants had difficulties accessing health care in the destination, particularly those lacking documentation. The separation within families due to migration often caused emotional pain. Family members left behind did not rate their physical health as good as often as non-migrant families. The vulnerability, stress experiences and sufferings of migrants and left-behinds varied, however. I therefore conclude that social differences (in terms of e.g. gender, class, skin colour, and legal immigration status) are key for the enactment of the migration-health nexus, and that an interplay of individual, social and structural factors influence the outcome.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 2014. , 329 p.
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2014:2
Keyword [en]
migration, health, health care, migration-health nexus, Nicaragua, remittances, mobile livelihoods, translocal geographies, vulnerability, suffering, coping, undocumentedness, mixed-methods, HDSS
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-97493ISBN: 978-91-7601-192-8OAI: diva2:773256
Public defence
2015-01-16, Hörsal C, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2014-12-19 Created: 2014-12-18 Last updated: 2014-12-19Bibliographically approved

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