‘Powerful’ El Niño to cause hunger among world’s poorest people – report

Jodesz Gavilan
‘Powerful’ El Niño to cause hunger among world’s poorest people – report
The 'most powerful since 1997' El Niño threatens to push at least 10 million people to the hunger and poverty trap

MANILA, Philippines – Millions of people are at risk of suffering from hunger and poverty in 2015 as one of the powerful El Niño climatic events in history continues to threaten several countries, Oxfam International said on Wednesday, October 1.

In a latest report, Entering Unchartered Waters, the group found that the world is facing a climactic event possibly “the most powerful since 1997.” It can also push at least 10 million of the world’s poorest people down the hunger trap.

The risk of hunger, it added, is caused by crop failures due to droughts which “seriously disrupt” growing seasons of several poor countries.

Without proper intervention, “major humanitarian emergencies” are likely to happen. The report cited previous droughts in recent years which caused widespread damage such as in 2011 when more than 260,000 people died in Africa.

Addressing these issues are important as the high temperature recorded in 2014 is “most likely” to continue in the next years.

Poor countries most affected

El Niño is a climatic event where Pacific waters become warm and triggers either erratic rains in South America, while Australia, Asia, and Africa suffer from drought-like conditions.

The impact of El Niño – extreme weather and food security issues – is mainly specific to certain regions.

In addition, the average global yields of staples such as rice and wheat are only minimally affected. The slight loss of yields can thus be “balanced out” by increasing production levels in other countries not affected by El Niño.

However, Oxfam explained that the situation of global production is “of little consolation” to the world’s poorest countries which experience the major negative effects.

Several low-income countries are already facing a “major emergency” due to the effects, the group said.

In Ethiopia, the prolonged lack of rain in 2015 resulted in more than 4.5 million people needing food aid, while two million people in Papua New Guinea have been affected by crops loss.

‘First test of commitment’

The report comes a few days after world leaders expressed their commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Key goals under the 2030 agenda include eradicating hunger, poverty, and fighting climate change, including its effects.

According to Oxfam, it is now high time for the United Nations to take action against the crisis.

The first “test of commitment” will be an agreement at the Paris climate talks in December “for the women, men, and children on the frontlines of climate change.”

“This unfolding crisis shows the scale of threat that climate change poses to its realization,” the group emphasized. – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.