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El Niño Food Security Impact (April 2016)

Originally published


  • El Niño is fuelling a global food security crisis, with more than 60 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, this number will increase as further assessment details emerge. Although the El Niño event is subsiding, its impacts will be felt for months to come and food insecurity will deteriorate.

  • El Niño threatens decades of development progress by making communities less able to absorb and adapt to a changing climate. Resilience needs to be at the centre of the El Niño response to curb long term impact.

Global Overview

Particular areas of concern include nearly all of Southern Africa which is the hardest hit region; Ethiopia and its neighbours Somalia and Sudan in east Africa; Central America’s ‘dry corridor’ and nearby Haiti; and many of Asia’s island nations including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

Southern Africa Region

El Niño continues to severely affect the Southern Africa region, which is suffering from the driest cropping season in at least 35 years. Needs are likely to peak between the end of 2016 and March 2017, and the food insecure population is likely to at least double compared with current levels.

Successive harvest failures will aggravate not only food and nutrition insecurity, but also health and HIV related-issues and calls for stronger regional cooperation to facilitate cross-border movements to the most affected areas.


El Niño-related drought continues to affect millions of people, deepening food insecurity, malnutrition and water shortages. Humanitarian needs have tripled since early 2015 as severe drought has caused successive harvest failures and widespread livestock deaths. In 2016 so far, WFP has dispatched three rounds of food assistance with distributions ongoing. By the end of the first quarter of 2016, over half a million moderately malnourished children and pregnant and nursing women were assisted through the nutritional-support Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme.


The number of food insecure people has doubled in the last six months as a result of a third consecutive year of drought. 3.6 million people currently face food insecurity. Of these, 1.5 million are severely food insecure, and over 130,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition. In coordination with the Government, WFP has already been distributing food to about 120,000 Haitians since November 2015 in the worst affected areas. WFP is preparing to scale up operations, targeting approximately one million people at an estimated cost of USD 80 million.

WFP Response

WFP is rapidly scaling up relief operations to assist the most vulnerable communities, particularly those already reeling from successive bad harvests. WFP is providing emergency food where needed, and cash to buy food where markets are functioning. Nutrition support programmes such as Targeted Supplementary Feeding are being scaled up. Innovative insurance payouts have also been triggered in participating countries to help farming families and economies endure El Niño. WFP is assisting governments in strengthening their Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience plans and response.