El Niño: Overview of Impact and Projected Humanitarian Needs and Response as of 29 January 2016

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 29 Jan 2016

60 million PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED BY EL NIÑO IN THE FOUR MOST AFFECTED REGIONS

2.8 million PEOPLE REQUIRE HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS

10.2 million PEOPLE IN NEED OF EMERGENCY FOOD IN ETHIOPIA

14 million FOOD INSECURE PEOPLE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA – EXCLUDING SOUTH AFRICA

El Niño status

A strong El Niño persists, but ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific are showing a gradual cooling. Climate models suggest El Niño will decay over the coming months, with a likely return to neutral conditions in the second quarter of 2016. However, recent tropical cyclone activity in the central tropical Pacific has produced strong westerly winds along the equator which may temporarily slow the decline of El Niño. The 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon is one of the three strongest since 1950. The current El Niño has already affected millions of people in countries in Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and Central and South America.

Countries globally continue to feel the effects of El Niño which include below average precipitation during the rainy season, more intense cyclones in the North-Western Pacific and potentially more frequent cyclones in the South Pacific over the coming weeks. Droughts in Southern and Eastern Africa continue to contribute to a declining food security, nutrition and health situation. El Niño’s protracted effects and the possibility of a severe La Niña event mean millions more are at risk of hunger, disease and water shortages in the months ahead.

Although El Niño has started to decline in strength, this does not mean that the danger has passed. The ongoing impact of El Niño and the possibility of a subsequent La Niña may continue to affect different parts of the world, especially health and food insecurity, for as long as two years. In Southern Africa, El Niño has led to severe drought conditions, which is expected to significantly affected the April 2016 harvest and have a devastating impact on food security over the coming 12 months. East Africa, Southern Africa, the Pacific Islands, South East Asia and Central America have the greatest risk of adverse weather affecting their rainy seasons.

La Niña

La Niña is associated with cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean, unlike El Niño, which is associated with warmer- than-normal water temperatures. Global climate La Niña impacts tend to be opposite to those of El Niño. Historical patterns show that a La Niña sometimes follows an El Niño and that it has an even greater overall humanitarian impact on average, as coping capacities are eroded. Neutral and La Niña states are about equally likely for the second half of 2016.

First Quarter Precipitation Overview

AMERICAS
Drought conditions persist in Central America, the Caribbean and parts of South America.
Wetter conditions in southern Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru.

AFRICA
Drought conditions persist in southern Africa.
Extended wet conditions in the southern Horn and eastern equatorial Africa.

ASIA-PACIFIC
Drought conditions persist in the northern and western Pacific, Indonesia and Philippines.
Wetter conditions in eastern China and central Pacific.

WHO releases a Global Overview on El Niño and Health Impacts – 22 January

Severe drought, flooding, heavy rains and temperature rises can lead to food insecurity and malnutrition, disease outbreaks, acute water shortages, and disruption of health services. The health implications are usually more intense in developing countries with fewer capacities to reduce the health consequences. Thus far, requests for financial support by seven high-risk countries (Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda) facing the health costs of El Niño have reached US$76 million. In the Horn of Africa, the devastating drought has been followed by unusually heavy rains causing a high risk of vector-borne disease and communicable disease outbreaks, especially among displaced populations and those with high levels of malnutrition. El Niño caused heavy rains and flooding in eastern Africa which could cause cholera outbreaks in Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda to spread, and other countries may experience cholera outbreaks.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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