El Niño is over but its impact on children is set to worsen as disease, malnutrition continue to spread

In Eastern and Southern Africa alone, 26.5 million children are in need of aid

NAIROBI/NEW YORK, July 8, 2016 – The 2015-2016 El Niño has ended but its devastating impact on children is worsening, as hunger, malnutrition and disease continue to increase following the severe droughts and floods spawned by the event, one of the strongest on record, UNICEF said today.

And there is a strong chance La Niña – El Niño’s flip side – could strike at some stage this year, further exacerbating a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting millions of children in some of the most vulnerable communities, UNICEF said in a report called It’s not over – El Niño’s impact on children.

Children in the worst affected areas are going hungry. In Eastern and Southern Africa – the worst hit regions – some 26.5 million children need support, including more than one million who need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

In many countries, already strained resources, have reached their limits, and affected families have exhausted their coping mechanisms – such as selling off assets and skipping meals. Unless more aid is forthcoming, including urgent nutritional support for young children, decades of development progress could be eroded.

HALABA WOREDA, SNNPR – 24 JANUARY 2016In many countries, El Niño affected access to safe water, and has been linked to increases in diseases such as dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers of children. In South America, and particularly Brazil, El Niño has created favourable breeding conditions for the mosquito that can transmit Zika, dengue, yellow fever and chikungunya.  If La Niña does develop, it could contribute to the spread of the Zika virus to areas that have not been affected to date.

UNICEF also said there are serious concerns that Southern Africa, the global epicentre of the AIDS pandemic, could see an increased transmission of HIV as a result of El Niño’s impact. Lack of food affects access to anti-retroviral therapy (ART), as patients tend not to take treatment on an empty stomach, and many people will use their limited resources for food rather than transport to a health facility. Drought can also force adolescent girls and women to engage in transactional sex to survive. And, mortality for children living with HIV is two to six times higher for those who are severely malnourished than for those who are not.

“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. “The same children who are affected by El Niño and threatened by La Niña, find themselves on the frontlines of climate change.”

Ethiopia: US$1.4 billion urgently required to meet food and non-food needs for 10.2 million people

Ethiopia: Government and humanitarian partners launch the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2016

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Fartun Hassan, 25, mother of 4, makes her way home in Yahas-Jamal Keble in Somali region of Ethiopia 11 February 2014 ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Ose

Addis Ababa, 11 December 2015: The Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners today launched the joint Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) for 2016. The appeal seeks $1.4 billion to provide 10.2 million people with emergency food assistance; 5.8 million people with water, health and sanitation; and more than 2.1 million people with nutrition including 400,000 severely malnourished children. The HRD also identifies funding requirements for education, agriculture and livelihoods, emergency shelter and relief items, displacement, and targeted assistance for women and children.

The impact of this global El Niño climactic event followed failed spring rains and led to erratic summer rains in Ethiopia, and contributed to one of the worst droughts in decades. Resultant spikes in food insecurity, malnutrition, water shortages, and health concerns surged well beyond global emergency thresholds and compelled a massive increase in emergency assistance by the Government and humanitarian partners. The needs presented in the HRD for 2016 were established through a robust, Government-led interagency assessment that resulted in a strategic overview and objectives, sector implementation plans, and detailed funding requirements.

The impact of the El Niño-driven disaster will be most acutely felt in the months ahead. “The Government has, and continues to provide exemplary leadership for humanitarian responses to the emergency,” said Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Ethiopia.

“The Government has responded immediately, put forth its own resources, and led calls on the international community to scale-up response and funding. The humanitarian system and donor partners are moving quickly to step up, which is very encouraging,” Ms Eziakonwa-Onochie further noted.

“The highest priority remains food – some $1.1 billion is urgently required for emergency food assistance,” said Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF’s Representative to Ethiopia. “We are confident donors will quickly provide this support, as this can prevent needless suffering and far more costly specialized nutrition interventions if we act now. In addition to emergency food aid, we must ensure nutrition, water and health are effectively resourced to meet urgent gaps as well.”

Mr Amadou Allahoury Diallo, FAO’s Representative to Ethiopia, stated, “We must capitalize upon the opportunity to utilize available water to support small-holder farmers for short cycle crops to restore livelihoods and reduce food importation.”

“In many areas its simply didn’t rain” said Mr Paul Handley, OCHA’s Head of Office. “This, in addition to affecting livelihoods, dried up potable water sources and affects nutrition and health concerns. Addressing this is a critical priority of the HRD for 2016.”

The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team further calls on development partners and the Development Assistance Group to continue to work closely together to safeguard development gains and to identify durable solutions to cyclical humanitarian needs.

El Niño Driven Emergency in Ethiopia

In June, The Government declared the failure of the spring Belg rains affecting smallholder famers and pastoralist. In October a Government –led multi-agency Meher assessment was conducted and concluded that the expected harvest was far below expectation due to poor and erratic rains as a result to El Niño. This led to the increase in the number of priority 1 woredas from 142 in August to 186 and the estimated number of people in need of food assistance rose to 10.2 million with and an estimated 400,000 children with severe acute malnutrition.

In response to this, UNICEF has been supporting the Government in scaling up its response to the emergency by increase the number of health facilities capable of treating severe acute malnutrition, at present 14,788 facilities now fully equipped to treat severe acute malnutrition with supplies such as Ready to Use supplementary food and essential medicines.

Currently 291,214 cases of severe acute malnutrition have already been treated with monthly admissions nearly doubling since then beginning of the year from 20,000 new cases in January to 35,000 -40,000 new admission since August-October. 

See below infographics for more.

El Nino Driven Emergency in Ethiopia