The humanitarian impact of the 2015-2016 El Niño remains deeply alarming, now affecting over 60 million people. Central America, East Africa (particularly Ethiopia), the Pacific and Southern Africa remain the most affected regions. The El Niño phenomenon is now in decline, but projections indicate the situation will worsen throughout at least the end of the year, with food insecurity caused primarily by drought not likely to peak before December. Therefore, the humanitarian impacts will last well into 2017 . El Niño has affected food security and agricultural production, with cascading effects on livelihoods, health, water, sanitation, education and other sectors. This is due to flooding, disease outbreaks and malnutrition, disruption of health and education services, and overall increased mortality. In Eastern and Southern Africa,¹ some 50.2 million people are food insecure, many due to drought exacerbated by El Niño or due to a combination of drought and conflict. This number is expected to increase significantly towards the end of the year. Drought, flooding and extreme weather events caused by El Niño affect women and girls in particular ways which must be understood and incorporated into humanitarian and development interventions.
This year’s El Niño is taking place in a world already dramatically affected by climate change. More extreme weather events are expected, and climate change may increase the frequency and severity of future El Niño events. These events hit the poorest communities hardest. This means that, in addition to responding quickly to critical food, water, nutrition, health and livelihoods requirements, efforts must be focused on building climate resilience and the capacity to respond to future shocks.
The likelihood of a La Niña developing by September 2016 has increased to 75 per cent². However, some uncertainty remains, as forecasts made at this time of the year typically have less accuracy than those made during the second half of the year. The World Meteorological Organization’s El Niño/La Niña Update3 of 12 May indicates a return to ENSO-neutral conditions in May 2016, with odds increasing of La Niña development in the third quarter. The specific impacts of La Niña are difficult to predict, but it typically brings extreme weather to the same regions most affected by El Niño, where people’s coping capacities have already been eroded. Areas now experiencing drought could face flooding, and areas that have seen excessive rainfall with El Niño could experience drought. This means that La Niña preparedness and early action need to be built into El Niño response and recovery efforts, and development actors should increase risk and vulnerability-reduction efforts in priority areas, including by reprioritizing existing development funding to mitigate the risks.
Several additional countries have finalized costed response plans since the last Global Overview, raising the funding request to almost US$3.9 billion. Response plans with requests for international assistance have been completed by Governments and/or humanitarian partners in 19 countries, with other plans still being finalized. Since mid-2015, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated over $119 million to 19 countries. Reflecting recent pledges and new funding requests, the current funding gap is almost $2.5 billion. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is expected to issue a regional appeal in June 2016, based on new crop assessments completed in May/June, which is expected to increase the funding request. The food security and agriculture sector is the worst affected by El Niño, with funding requests comprising almost 80 per cent of all national and humanitarian response plans.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.