10 Nov 2015
An estimated 11 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and dehydration, in eastern and southern Africa, as a result of a strengthening El Niño, which is also causing droughts and floods in many other regions of the world.
That’s according to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF.
The agency says that the weather phenomenon, among the strongest on record, is likely to cause more floods and droughts, fuel Pacific typhoons and cyclones, and affect more areas if it continues to strengthen.
Nicki Chadwick reports.
El Niño is a climate pattern linked to the warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, which can have a profound effect on weather patterns around the world.
It can also have a devastating impact on children. Besides the immediate risks of death and injury, El Niño can lead to significant increases in diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, all of which can kill.
Christophe Boulierac, spokesperson for UNICEF, says that the impacts of El Niño can be wide-reaching:
“It has an impact as well on children’s safety. For instance, children who lose their parents following floods or typhoons become more potentially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. It also has an impact on children’s education and mental health. When extreme weather deprives communities of their livelihoods, young children often suffer from undernutrition, which puts them at greater risk of delayed mental development.”
Although El Niños are not caused by climate change, scientists believe they are becoming more intense as a result of such. Many of the countries now experiencing El Niño are those that face the gravest threat from climate change, while many of the affected areas also have high poverty levels.
Nicki Chadwick, United Nations, Geneva.