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Global Call for Support and Action: Responding to El Niño
by FAO, WFP, Oxfam, Unicef, agencies
7:30am 24th Jul, 2016
New and continued drought in the Horn of Africa threatens livelihoods and food security. (FAO)
Countries in the Horn of Africa are likely to see a rise in hunger and further decline of local livelihoods in the coming months, as farming families struggle with the knock-on effects of multiple droughts that hit the region this year, FAO warned today. Growing numbers of refugees in East Africa, meanwhile, are expected to place even more burden on already strained food and nutrition security.
Currently, close to 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of food assistance, as families in the region face limited access to food and income, together with rising debt, low cereal and seed stocks, and low milk and meat production. Terms of trade are particularly bad for livestock farmers, as food prices are increasing at the same time that market prices for livestock are low. Farmers in the region need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years. Production outputs in the three countries are grim.
Rapid intervention
"We''re dealing with a cyclical phenomenon in the Horn of Africa," said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO''s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division. "But we also know from experience that timely support to farming families can significantly boost their ability to withstand the impacts of these droughts and soften the blow to their livelihoods," he stressed.
For this reason, FAO has already begun disbursing emergency funds for rapid interventions in Kenya and Somalia. The funds will support emergency feed and vaccinations for breeding and weak animals, repairs of water points, and seeds and tools to plant in the spring season. FAO is also working with local officials to bolster countries emergency preparedness across the region.
"Especially in those areas where we know natural hazards are recurring, working with the Government to further build-up their ability to mitigate future shocks is a smart intervention that can significantly reduce the need for humanitarian and food aid further down the line," Burgeon said.
Kenya is highly likely to see another drought in early 2017, and with it a rise in food insecurity. Current estimates show some 1.3 million people are food insecure. Based on the latest predictions, the impacts of the current drought in the southern part of the country will lessen by mid-2017, but counties in the North - in particular Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera - will steadily get worse.
Families in these areas are heavily dependent on livestock. Now, with their livelihoods already stressed - the last reliable rain they received was in December 2015- they will get little relief from the October-December short rains, which typically mark a recovery period but once again fell short this season.
In the affected counties, the terms of trade have become increasingly unfavourable for livestock keepers, as prices of staple foods are rising, while a flood of weakened sheep, goats and cows onto local markets has brought down livestock prices. To ensure livestock markets remain functional throughout the dry season in 2017, FAO, is training local officials in better managing livestock markets -- in addition to providing feed, water and veterinary support.
After two poor rainy seasons this year, Somalia is in a countrywide state of drought emergency, ranging from moderate to extreme. As a result, the Gu cereal harvest - from April to June - was 50 percent below average, and prospects for the October-December Deyr season are very grim. To make matters worse, the country''s driest season - the Jilaal that begins in January- is expected to be even harsher than usual, which means Somali famers are unlikely to get a break anytime soon.
All indications are that crop farmers are already facing a second consecutive season with poor harvest. Pastoralists, meanwhile, are struggling to provide food for both their families and livestock, as pasture and water for grazing their animals are becoming poorer and scarcer by the day - in the south, pasture availability is the lowest it has been in the past five years.
Some five million Somalis are food insecure through December 2016. This includes 1.1 million people in Crisis and Emergency conditions of food insecurity (Phases 3 and 4 on the five-tier IPC scale used by humanitarian agencies). This is a 20 percent increase in just six months.
The latest analysis forecasts that the number of people in Crisis and Emergency conditions of food insecurity may further rise by more than a quarter of a million people between February and May 2017. Similar conditions in 2011 have resulted in famine and loss of lives, and therefore early action is urgently needed to avoid a repeat.
FAO calls on resource partners to urgently scale up assistance in rural areas, in the form of cash relief, emergency livestock support and agricultural inputs to plant in the April Gu season. If farmers cannot plant during Gu - which traditionally produces 60 percent of the country''s annual cereal output -- they will be left without another major harvest until 2018.
Farming families in Ethiopia, meanwhile, are extremely vulnerable as they have not been able to recover from the 2015 El Nino-induced drought. Some 5.6 million people remain food insecure, while millions more depend on livestock herds that need to be protected and treated to improve milk and meat production. Here, too, better access to feed and water is critical. The crop situation is relatively stable after the country completed the most widespread emergency seed distribution in Ethiopia''s history. FAO and more than 25 NGOs and agencies reached 1.5 million households with drought-resistant seeds.
As a result of enabling farming families to grow their own food, the government and humanitarian community saved close to $1 billion in emergency aid, underlining that investing in farmers is not only the right thing to do but also the most cost-efficient.
Humanitarian needs continue to spiral in Southern Africa as peak of lean season looms.
Southern Africa is now entering the peak of the lean season following the worst El Niño-induced drought in decades. With food stocks largely depleted due to poor or failed harvests across the region, estimates of people in need of humanitarian assistance have increased by more than one million to 13.8 million, mainly due to rising needs in Madagascar, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
“Humanitarian assistance is being scaled up throughout the region,” said Timo Pakkala, El Nino Coordinator for the Southern Africa Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “However as we enter the critical period of the crisis during the lean season, many countries are struggling to stretch funds to cover the growing needs. It is essential that humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people is sustained through this period, and for farmers to be supported so they can resume agricultural production.”
Today, humanitarian agencies of the Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee (RIASCO) launched a revised Action Plan, outlining the deteriorating humanitarian conditions as well as response in the region. Food shortages across the region are now severe, and are being exacerbated by a multitude of existing and increasing vulnerabilities, including weak commodity prices, unfavourable exchange rates and slow economic growth. Moreover, the region accounts for a third of all people living with HIV worldwide.
The crisis is also disproportionately affecting women and children, with an increasing number of children dropping out of school due to lack of water and food, and entering child labour or early marriage. For example, in Malawi, more than 137,000 children are being forced out of school by the crisis.
Southern Madagascar is of particular concern where an estimated 845,000 people are currently in the emergency or crisis category of food security. Maize, cassava and rice production has decreased there by as much as 95% compared with 2015. The Madagascar humanitarian response plan is only 29% funded.
As of early December 2016, some $757 million has been raised for the humanitarian programmes of RIASCO partners in the region, which has helped save lives, protect livelihoods and reduce human suffering. This funding has allowed for a broad range of humanitarian assistance from partners. WFP’s combined operations, including food and cash assistance, reached 6.6 million people in October. WFP is now scaling up to reach 13 million people in January through a combination of relief, development, resilience and recovery operations.
From now until April 2017, WFP is supporting governments in treating and preventing moderate malnutrition among more than 700,000 young children, pregnant and nursing women, and people living with HIV across the region.
UNICEF and partners have treated more than 82,000 children for severe acute malnutrition and reached more than 600,000 people with clean water. In the coming months, UNICEF will work with partners to mobilise resources to provide life-saving treatment to 580,000 severely malnourished children; water, sanitation, and hygiene to more than 4.6 million children and their families; education to 1.9 million affected children; and protection and care for 5 million children.
FAO is supporting the provision of agricultural inputs for 800,000 farmers. National social protection programmes have been strengthened and cash transfer programmes expanded to stimulate local markets. National and international non-governmental organizations have played an indispensable role in the response.
Despite efforts, critical remaining funding gaps amounting to $550 million need to be met, without which, millions of the most vulnerable people will not receive full rations, and hundreds of thousands of children will remain at risk of irreparable damage from undernutrition and from dropping out of school. Health centres will not be able to provide the most essential services, and farmers will be unable to resume full agricultural production.
Alongside humanitarian assistance, the RIASCO action plan revision advocates stepping up efforts to end the cycle of drought-induced crises in southern Africa. Development partners say focus should be on the development of sound national policies and strategies, expanding coverage and strengthening social safety nets, promoting climate-smart agriculture, reinforcing early warning systems, and improving management of water and other natural resources.
Further investments in these areas, combined with solid fiscal and other risk management instruments at national and regional level, are required to build resilience and achieve the goal of breaking the cycle of recurrent drought emergencies.
22 July 2016
United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator calls for urgent action to assist millions of drought-affected people in Southern Africa - Report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Winding up a nine-day visit to the UK, Malawi and Madagascar, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang called for urgent action by governments and donors to assist millions of people affected by severe drought in the southern Africa region.
Southern Africa is experiencing the worst El Niño-induced drought in 35 years. Nearly 40 million people are food insecure, including some 23 million who require urgent humanitarian assistance. Some 2.7 million children face severe acute malnutrition. The figure is expected to spike significantly, if immediate assistance is not received, as food insecurity is expected to peak during the October 2016 to March 2017 lean season.
In London, Ms. Kang co-chaired a meeting of key donors and agencies on the effects of El Niño in southern Africa, where she urged international donors and development partners to join in efforts to raise the profile of the El Niño crisis facing the region and highlighted the urgency of the response needed.
In the Grand Sud region of Madagascar, a region wholly by-passed by development investment and caught up in chronic extreme poverty, 1.14 million people are food insecure, among whom 665,000 are in need of urgent assistance. Stunting rates for under-fives are 47 per cent in the country overall: the highest in Southern Africa. In Malawi, a State of National Disaster was declared in April, with 6.5 million people – nearly 40% of Malawi’s population - unable to get enough food by the end of this year.
El Niño-related conditions have compounded existing vulnerabilities, resulting in severe food shortages across southern Africa.
Agricultural production has been crippled, and almost half a million drought-related livestock deaths have been reported while water sources and reservoirs are severely depleted.
Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are the most severely affected countries.
“In Anjampaly, Southern Madagascar people are carting water from muddy puddles on the dirt road, a water source shared with animals. This is an alarming health issue: clean water is essential to combat the high rates of malnutrition.”
Ms. Kang met with representatives of the affected communities in both countries and discussed with Government authorities ways of boosting support to national efforts and met with donors as well as humanitarian partners.
“In Malawi I spoke to a mother of a three year old who could not pass for a one year old due to stunting. She told me about the nutritional challenges she is facing and the permanent impact the situation has had on the last born of four children,” said Ms. Kang.
In Madagascar, she spoke to a grandmother, among 1,200 or so lined up for food distribution. She had lost her son and three grandchildren to starvation earlier this year and has now to care for the remaining family.
The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator called for more action especially in areas of food assistance, nutrition, maternal and child health, water provision and management, as well as long-term development interventions to build the resilience of communities.
The scale of the drought is stretching national coping capacities. Hard-won development gains and even minimum coping mechanisms hang in the balance.
Building resilience of the communities is crucial to break the recurring cycle of drought and flood emergencies. Humanitarian funding levels in the region are extremely low and partners continue to face significant resource gaps.
In both countries Ms.Kang witnessed well-coordinated and much appreciated relief efforts by UN agencies and NGOs, but they need urgently more resources to step up their efforts.
“I appeal to governments and donors to give generously right now, so that we can provide life-saving assistance, alleviate suffering and prepare for the effects of La Niña.”
20 July, 2016
The World Food Program has activated its own internal emergency response mechanism, elevating the food crisis caused by El Nino in southern Africa to a “level 3” emergency.
That’s the highest level, putting it on par South Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. Speaking from Malawi, World Food Program executive director Ertharin Cousin says the WFP is planning to reach 11.8 million people in the region with food assistance between now and March 2017. But to do so, they need some $549 million and raising this money has been difficult because the crisis in Southern Africa is a slow burning and off the headlines. “We have not received much attention from the world community as this situation escalates,” she said. Of this $549 million, Cousin says $204 million is needed “urgently” to preposition food ahead of a coming rainy season that is expected to be particularly intense as El Nino’s sister weather phenomenon, La Nina, sets in.
* For more background on the crisis in Southern Africa:
July 2016
A Preventable Crisis - El Niño and La Niña events need earlier responses, focus on prevention says Oxfam International, agencies
The devastating impacts of the 2015–16 El Niño will be felt well into 2017. This crisis was predicted, yet overall, the response has been too little too late. The looming La Niña event may further hit communities that are already deeply vulnerable.
To end this cycle of failure, there is an urgent need for humanitarian action where the situation is already dire, to prepare for La Niña later this year, to commit to comprehensive new measures to build communities’ resilience, and to mobilize global action to address climate change which is creating a ‘new normal’ of higher temperatures, drought and unpredictable growing seasons.
The 2015–16 El Niño has now dissipated, but its devastating impacts will be felt well into 2017. As a result of droughts caused or exacerbated by El Niño, 60 million people across four continents, particularly those dependent on rain-fed agriculture, require immediate assistance. Oxfam assessments show people becoming more and more desperate:
In Ethiopia, the loss of livestock means the loss of livelihoods; men are suffering negative psychological effects and women’s trading businesses are folding.
In Malawi, people will run out of food by August 2016, with no staple harvest until April 2017.
In the Philippines, farmers have consumed their seed stocks intended for the next planting season and fish catches have shrunk by half.
In Haiti, some people are walking 5–10km to find water and there are very few day labouring jobs to provide income.
With prolonged lean seasons starting soon in the Horn and southern Africa, as well as some parts of the Pacific, humanitarian needs will grow over the coming months as people continue to face food insecurity, poverty and disease. The shock is likely to worsen in length and severity if a significant La Niña event also occurs.
This was a well forecast event. Both governments and international stakeholders have responded, but not at the scale and speed to preserve livelihoods, hope and dignity. The funding gap is currently $2.5bn.
This El Niño was a broadly preventable crisis, and as such, is a modern day tragedy. The severity of this El Niño’s impacts is a reflection of the world’s failure to provide comprehensive and long-term strategies to anticipate, prepare and adapt.
Many of its impacts—hunger, loss of livelihoods and displacement—could have been prevented or mitigated by well-planned investments in sustainable agriculture, basic social and physical infrastructure, and essential health and social programmes, among others.
For slow onset crises, particularly drought, the collective response is almost always too little too late. Early warning systems and forecasting have steadily improved and continue to do so, but turning an early warning into early action is hampered by a lack of strong crossdisciplinary leadership, willing to act on the basis of forecasts; agreed triggers for early action; and funding.
This crisis, while particularly severe, is not a one-off. Climate change has supercharged this El Niño and will bring more extreme weather events, and make strong El Niño and La Niña events more likely. Clearly more finance is required for adaptation. Oxfam estimates that international grant and grant-equivalent public finance for adaptation is a mere $4–6bn annually, while adaptation costs for developing countries could reach around $240bn per year by 2030.
* Access the Oxfam report:
April 2016
The humanitarian impact of the ongoing El Niño affecting tens of million of people, by WFP, Allafrica, FEWS Net, Unicef, agencies
Global Call for Support and Action: Responding to El Niño - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The current El Niño is resulting in life-threatening weather extremes around the world, including Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years. More than 60 million people of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable have been affected by droughts, floods and other extreme weather events made more devastating by El Niño. They require our help.
The numbers are staggering. Needs are stretching to the limit the capacity of governments and their humanitarian partners to deliver. One million children in Eastern and Southern Africa alone are severely acutely malnourished. In Ethiopia, the country worst affected by El Niño, 10.2 million people require food assistance and 6.8 million people need emergency health assistance and water. Across Southern Africa, 32 million people need some form of assistance, and that figure is likely to increase. In the Asia Pacific region, around 11 million people are food insecure. In Central America and the Caribbean, more than 9.7 million people have been affected by drought conditions linked to El Niño.
El Niño’s humanitarian impact has been most devastating in countries throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Eight countries have declared a national state of emergency - El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Lesotho, Malawi, the Marshall Islands, Swaziland and Zimbabwe - and many more have declared a state of emergency in particular regions. In March, the Southern African Development Community declared a regional drought disaster.
El Niño-induced weather extremes have especially affected food security and nutrition, as well as health and water, sanitation and hygiene. There are very worrying increases in acute malnutrition among children under five as well as water- and vector-borne diseases.
The lack of clean water in health facilities has reduced or altogether stopped health services and schooling in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. El Niño is also forcing thousands of people to leave arid or flooded regions, including in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The response to this El Niño event has been major. National governments, regional organizations and the United Nations and NGOs have worked hard to respond, and coordination has been working well. But resources are lacking and preventing the necessary scale-up. The gap is threatening to cut short life-saving programmes.
Overall, about US$3.6 billion is needed by governments and Humanitarian Country Teams to tackle El Niño-related needs in 13 countries. We collectively face an alarming funding gap of over $2.2 billion for the provision of food, clean water, basic medicine, and seeds to make sure farmers do not lose their next harvest. This figure is expected to grow as additional plans are concluded and new needs assessments are finalized, notably in Ethiopia and Southern Africa.
So while the collective impact of the El Niño phenomenon has created one of the world’s biggest disasters for millions of people, this crisis is receiving, sadly, relatively little attention. I am here to sound the alarm. Again.
Although the El Niño phenomenon itself is subsiding, its devastating human impact will increase in the coming weeks and months with El Niño-related food insecurity projected to peak between December 2016 and April 2017. This is an alarm, it is not alarmist. This could become even worse if a La Niña event strikes in the third or fourth quarter of this year.
Assistance efforts must be scaled up before the worst-case scenarios become a reality. We must take urgent action now to help people whose livelihoods and whose entire way of life is threatened – even their ability to survive. We are here today to make a global call for support and action. Sixty million people already require our urgent assistance.
Together we can avert the crisis from worsening. But the longer we wait, the longer and more costly our response will need to be. Inaction also risks undermining decades of investments to development. As a reminder, and to put that into perspective, the El Niño of 1997-98 killed around 21,000 people and caused damage to infrastructure worth $36 billion.
We know what needs to be done. In this crisis we are not held back by political barriers, violent attacks or major access challenges. We must respond quickly to immediate, life threatening needs, but we must also help people to become more self-reliant, and build individual and community capacity to respond to future shocks.
We are all actively working on this. In the affected countries, we work together with development partners and national authorities. But we need donors to urgently increase funding to the response and resilience efforts.
The longer we wait, the more people will suffer, the costlier the response will be and the more development gains will be lost. The challenge now is one of political will. Urgent action must be taken to assist affected communities.
March 2016
Food security worsens further in Southern Africa due to drought reports UN Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Thirty-four countries, including 27 in Africa, are currently in need of external assistance for food due to drought, flooding and civil conflicts, according to a new edition of FAO''s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report released this week. The figure has grown from 33 last December, after the addition of Swaziland.
Drought associated with El Nino has "sharply reduced" 2016 crop production prospects in Southern Africa, while expectations for the harvest in Morocco and Algeria have been lowered due to dry conditions.
Also in areas of Central America and the Caribbean, ongoing dry conditions linked to El Nino may affect sowings of the main season crops for the third consecutive year.
Moreover, persistent conflicts in Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Somalia, and the Central African Republic have taken a heavy toll on the agricultural sector, further worsening the humanitarian crisis in those countries.
In most cases, the impact of conflict extends into neighbouring countries such as Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo that are hosting refugee populations.
In several countries already in need of external assistance for food, conditions generally worsened in the past three months, according to the report from FAO''s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), mainly in the Southern Africa sub-region, where food prices have reached record highs.
Mar 2016
Southern Africa drought needs swift response as millions hungry - aid agencies. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Southern African governments and donors must respond swiftly to the regional drought emergency triggered by El Niño, aid agencies said this week, with millions in the region facing hunger.
Responding to a statement on Wednesday by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) declaring a regional disaster, Oxfam, Save the Children and CARE said some 28-30 million people faced severe hunger, a figure that could rise quickly to 49 million if no action is taken.
"We are especially concerned about the impacts of the crisis on women and girls," said Emma Naylor-Ngugi of the humanitarian group CARE. "Increasingly, families are skipping meals and eating wild fruits to get by."
The agencies urged governments and donors to coordinate their responses to the drought, prompted by the powerful El Niño phenomenon, which has driven two consecutive bad harvests and the failure of life-supporting crops.
The drought has hit much of the region, including the maize belt in South Africa, the continent"s most advanced economy and the top producer of the staple grain.
"Investing in a robust response was essential months ago and it is critical now," said Alan Paul of Save the Children"s East and Southern Africa region.
Even though the powerful El Niño weather phenomenon blamed for the drought is forecast to dissipate in the coming months, its impact on people in affected countries will last far longer, the United Nations has warned.
Oxfam"s Innocent Katsande urged all Southern African governments to declare the drought a disaster, pointing to Malawi as an example of a government that had not yet done so.
"Political leadership is crucial," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Governments need to coordinate their response to the crisis, bringing together donors and agencies."
SADC"s announcement approved the creation of a regional logistics team to coordinate the immediate response, and urged member states to scale up technological development for agriculture, energy, and water, in order to mitigate the impact of climate change on the region"s poorest people.
"This current phenomenon is a strong sign of what we can expect from a climate-changed world," said Oxfam"s Daniel Sinnathamby.
"We need to meet people"s immediate needs but we must address the longer-term issues which have made men, women and children in Southern Africa chronically vulnerable."

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