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Latin America and the Caribbean: Sustained support needed as El Nino batters fragile region

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(New York, 18 February 2016):   The Director of Operations for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, urged the international community to maintain support for Latin American countries facing the devastating impacts of El Nino, extreme poverty and political fragility. He briefed media in New York following a seven-day visit to Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and Haiti from 7 to 13 February.

Latin America is experiencing the worst drought in decades, which has created a critical humanitarian situation for 4.2 million people. It is estimated that El Nino will cause an 83% increase in food insecurity across the region – which is an increase from 12 million food insecure people at the start of 2015, to 22.1 million food insecure people at the start of next year. In Haiti, where cholera persists alongside social and economic fragility, an alarming 36% of the population is food insecure.

“We see the effects of one of the most severe El Nino climate eventson record, making life in an already poor and fragile region even more precarious; driving worsening food, health and displacement crises in a region that has received significantly reduced international attention,” warned Mr. Ging, “It is more critical than ever then, that we find ways to support this region to build durable solutions.”

Some 80 million people across Central America live in extreme poverty alongside the threat of daily violence, making the impact of El Nino even more devastating.

In Colombia, 50 years of violence have resulted in seven million people being displaced from their homes across the country – this is the second largest displacement crisis in the world. The country is on the verge of a significant peace agreement, which has the potential to put an end to decades of conflict and begin to alleviate the great humanitarian needs in the country.

“We have to recognize the enormous opportunity of this moment for Colombians. People have been suffering for decades as a result of this conflict and we must support the country to make sure that there is a positive impact on the lives of those who have been displaced and impoverished for so long,” noted John Ging.

For further information, please call: 

Rogerio Mobilio da Silva, OCHA Panama, Tel. _+507 317 1748, +507 6747 1969, _silvar@un.org

Rachelle Elien, OCHA Haiti, Tel. _+509 3702 5177, _elien@un.org

Támara Jaramillo, OCHA Colombia, Tel. _+571 6221100 Ext. 1122, _jaramillo@un.org

Amanda Pitt, OCHA New York, Tel _+ 1 917 442 1810, _pitta@un.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.