AT least 20 million people globally will be affected by drought and erratic rains linked to an extreme El Niño weather pattern that will intensify in the coming months, aid agency CARE Australia has warned.
In Papua New Guinea alone, almost 2.5 million people are already dealing with potentially life-threatening food shortages due to severe drought and frost.
“We have a crisis developing on our doorstep and we need to be ready to respond,” said CARE Australia chief executive Dr Julia Newton-Howes.
“When it comes to El Niño, we need to act now. Governments and the global humanitarian community need to get ahead of the game in order to prevent or reduce the impact of El Niño disasters when they strike.”
The current El Niño is likely to become one of the strongest on record, affecting rain patterns and temperatures across the world for the rest of the year and into 2016.
Estimates from countries where CARE works indicate at least 20 million people will be affected. But that number could rise dramatically depending on the intensity and duration of this El Niño event.
In Ethiopia, the government estimates 4.5 million people will need food assistance this year due to the El Niño-linked drought.
Effects are also being felt in Vanuatu, which is still recovering from the devastating impact of Cyclone Pam in March, one of the worst disasters in the country’s history.
It comes as the Australian Government is preparing to join global talks on a new climate pact in Paris in December.
“This year’s El Niño may become the starkest warning yet of the humanitarian consequences faced by poor and vulnerable people worldwide who lack the tools to cope in a changing climate,” Dr Newton-Howes said.
“Governments must agree on a strong climate treaty at the upcoming COP21 in Paris. Now is a time for political leaders to be visionary and deal with the fundamental causes of conflict, poverty and social inequality, as well as measures for mitigating and preparing for climate change.”
Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities and currently works at Redkite, a childhood cancer charity.