We are living in the most unusually warm period in history and this is taking a huge toll on the world’s most vulnerable.
2015 was the hottest year on record and 2016 look set to be even hotter. As this year's El Niño in the Pacific lurches towards becoming a La Nina, the run of record temperatures looks set to be broken again. But in some ways, this year is not unique.
60 million people in need of immediate humanitarian assistance due to El Niño. More than 26 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water in Africa alone.
El Niño is a term for the warming phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It is a warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. During an El Niño event, sea surface temperatures across the Pacific can warm by 1–3°F or more for anything between a few months to two years. El Niño 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.
Over the last twenty years, 90 percent of disasters have been caused by floods, storms, heatwaves and other weather-related events. Over this period, weather-related disasters claimed 606,000 lives, an average of some 30,000 per annum, with an additional 4.1 billion people injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance.
In Africa, where 70 percent of the population is dependent upon agriculture, El Niño is having catastrophic consequences. Economic losses due to disasters can be 20 times greater (as a percentage of GDP) in developing countries compared to developed countries.
Flooding, disease outbreaks and malnutrition and the disruption of health services has increased overall mortality such that the World Health Organisation needs almost half a billion dollars to address the health costs of El Niño.
Developing countries are bearing the brunt of weather-related disasters as countries with weaker governance experience far higher mortality and economic loss to disasters compared to wealthier countries. Mortality risk is approximately 225 times greater in low-income countries compared to OECD countries for tropical cyclones.
Yet a dollar invested in resilience, disaster risk reduction and early action can save around four dollars in emergency relief. Funding needs to support these kinds of programs as well as humanitarian relief. It also needs to be multi-year and flexible – at least ten percent of development finance needs to be made available to manage climate risks.
World Vision’s Response
World Vision works in and with communities for up to 15 years and is able to release 20 percent of its community development budget for immediate humanitarian support.
Recognising the unjust toll that disasters take on those who are already struggling, World Vision has focused on three specific areas in order to minimise the impact of some of the worst weather-related disasters:
World Vision has so far reached over 3 million people affected by El Niño – more than half of them are children.
In the Philippines, we have integrated development with emergency response in our nutrition hubs. In Ethiopia, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration has made communities resilient and resistant to drought. In Zambia, our water programs have reduced the affects of disasters by reducing the exposure to water borne diseases that so many children are susceptible to.
Download a summary of World Vision's Response