Monster El Niño subsides, La Niña hitting soon
As if human-made armed conflicts, wickedness, rights abuse, gender violence, cruel inequality and climate catastrophes were not enough, now the saying “God Always Forgives, Men Sometimes, Nature Never” appear to be more true than ever.
Now that the 2015-2016 El Niño –one of the strongest on record– has subsided, La Niña – El Niño’s ‘counterpart’– could strike soon, further exacerbating a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting millions of people in the most vulnerable communities in tens of countries worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia Pacific.
El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.
La Niña is the opposite weather phenomena—it lowers sea surface temperature producing a counter impact and anyway bringing more catastrophes with heavy rains in areas affected by El Niño draughts and more of these in flooded regions.
While El Niño has devastated harvests, livestock and thus livelihoods, its huge impact on children is worsening, “as hunger, malnutrition and disease continue to increase following the severe droughts and floods spawned by the event,” a new report from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has just revealed.
Making matters worse, there is a strong chance La Niña could strike at some stage this year, UNICEF’s report “It’s not over – El Niño’s impact on children” alerts.
“Millions of children and their communities need support in order to survive. They need help to prepare for the eventuality La Niña will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. And they need help to step up disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change, which is causing more intense and more frequent extreme weather events,” said UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programs, Afshan Khan.
Global Development at Risk
UNICEF is not the sole UN agency to warn against the devastating effects of El Niño and the huge threats from La Niña.
The heads of the three Rome-based UN agencies – the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) – along with the UN Special Envoy on El Niño & Climate, warned in a recent meeting that more than 60 million people worldwide are projected to be food insecure due to the impact of the El Niño climate event.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva warned that the impact of El Niño on agricultural livelihoods has been enormous and with La Niña on the doorsteps the situation could worsen.
“El Niño has caused primarily a food and agricultural crisis,” he said, announcing that FAO will therefore mobilise additional new funding to “enable it to focus on anticipatory early action in particular, for agriculture, food and nutrition, to mitigate the impacts of anticipated events and to strengthen emergency response capabilities through targeted preparedness investments.”
Meanwhile, OXFAM international–a confederation of non-governmental organisations, reported that about 60 million people across Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, Central America, and the Pacific now face worsening hunger and poverty due to droughts and crop failures in 2014/5 that have been exacerbated by the El Niño weather system in 2015/6.