22 January 2016

Africa: El Niño Threatens At Least 60 Million People in High-Risk Developing Countries - UN Agency

Photo: Save the Children
A family sits on the floor of their home with their one-year-old son, who has moderate acute malnutrition.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners announced today they predict a major global increase in health consequences of emergencies this year due to El Niño.

El Niño is a warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific Ocean which affects rainfall patterns and temperatures in many parts of the world but most intensely in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America which are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards. Typically, some places receive much more rain than normal while others receive much less.

"From Ethiopia to Haiti to Papua New Guinea, we are seeing the damage from El Niño, and we believe the impact on public health is likely to continue throughout 2016, even after El Niño winds down," said Dr Richard Brennan, Director of WHO's Emergency Risk Management & Humanitarian Response Department, in a press release.

"To prevent unnecessary deaths and illnesses, governments must invest now in strengthening their preparedness and response efforts," he highlighted.

According to a new report by WHO, severe drought, flooding, heavy rains and temperature rises are all known effects of El Niño that 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. The current El Niño from 2015 to 2016 is predicted to be the worst in recent years, and comparable to the El Niño in 1997-1998 which had major health consequences worldwide.

In Eastern Africa, as a result of the El Niño in 1997-1998, WHO found that rainfall patterns were unusually heavy and led to serious flooding and major outbreaks of malaria, cholera and Rift Valley Fever.

Based on the latest UN figures, the report estimates 60 million people will be impacted by El Niño this year with many suffering health consequences. Thus far, requests for financial support by seven high-risk countries--Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda--have reached $ 76 million.

WHO expects more countries will seek financial support to respond to El Niño effectively. Part of the response will be to provide additional health services to those in need, such as increased surveillance and emergency vaccination. Immediate needs also require funds to provide treatments for severely malnourished children in many countries, such as Ethiopia.

More on This

FAO Presents $50 Million Emergency Plan As Ethiopia Faces Worst Drought in 30 Years

10.2 million food insecure after major crop failure, livestock losses due to El Niño Read more »

Copyright © 2016 UN News Service. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 1,000 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.