El Niño and CARE’s Response

El Niño and CARE’s Response

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The global weather system known as “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. The last major El Niño was in 1997-98. It caused at least $35 billion worth of destruction worldwide. 

El Niño will have a severe impact on access to water and food security in several of the countries where CARE works with vulnerable communities to provide emergency relief and promote positive change. Current projections from CARE’s country teams indicate that at least 20 million people will be affected by the impact of the El Niño in 2015 and 2016 – a number which can drastically increase depending upon the intensity and duration. CARE is particularly concerned by the situation of women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by natural disasters.

Update August 2017

A poor 2014-2015 season combined with the driest season in 35 years during the 2015-16 growing season resulted in extensive, regional-scale crop failure in much of Southern Africa, and brought food insecurity to 40 million people in the region. Of this figure, just over 14.2M were located in the CARE focus countries of Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

The peak of the crisis was felt between December 2016 and March 2017. As Southern Africa was recovering from the drought, Mozambique and Madagascar experienced serious tropical cyclones in early 2017, and Zimbabwe and Malawi received localized flooding, which further challenged recovery efforts. The arrival into the region of the Fall Armyworm also affected the production of some recovering farmers.

Between March 2016 and August 2017, CARE Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe have raised nearly $105M and reached 1.6M people with lifesaving support in the areas of food security, agriculture, WASH, and nutrition.

CARE reached 78% of the beneficiary target (and 11.2% of the overall affected population), and 62% of the funding target. Major donors included DfID, USAID, ECHO, WFP, SIDA, and GAC.

Here is an overview of the expected impact in some of the countries where CARE is working and how we plan to assist:

Cambodia: In response to the severe drought affecting much of Cambodia, CARE Cambodia and People in Need (PIN) are responding to support communities in the province of Koh Kong. The response includes distribution of water tanks and water filters to particularly vulnerable households in the most affected areas. 

Ethiopia: Lower than usual rainfalls have significantly reduced the first harvest of 2015 and delayed and disrupted the main rain season and planting for the country’s primary harvest. This will increase food insecurity across drought-prone areas of the country. A total of 4.5 million people have been identified by the government to be in need of emergency food assistance. CARE is currently providing food to 250,000 people and plan to assist up to 500,000 people in the coming months.

Haiti: A drought occurred during the main agricultural production period from April to June, likely halving the agricultural production. Reduced rainfall is expected until December, jeopardizing the production of the second agricultural season as well.  Corn and beans prices continue to increase, reducing the access of poorest households to food. CARE Haiti leads a large food security and social protection project in the most affected areas and is discussing plans for further response with other NGOs and the government.

India: El Niño disturbs the monsoon season, bringing more rain to some areas and less rain to others, affecting millions of  poor farmers who till small plots of land to sustain their families. CARE works in central (Chhattisgarh state) and southern (Odisha state) parts of India with more than 15,000 marginalized women farmers and their households to enhance their capacity to adopt climate resilient agriculture for enhanced crop productivity, availability of alternative livelihoods options, developing local markets and ensuring women’s access to safety nets. 

Indonesia: El Niño is already strongly felt with reduced rainfall and drought in some areas such as South Sumatra, Lampung, Java, Bali and South Sulawesi. The total population of affected areas is 170 million. CARE Indonesia is monitoring the situation in coordination with other agencies and the government and is making plans to adapt current activities. 

Kenya: More than usual rain is expected in most parts of the country for the rest of the year and into early 2016. Heavy rains may be beneficial, but also disastrous, depending on the level of preparedness. There is an increased risk of floods and mudslides in some areas. CARE Kenya plans to scale up a range of activities such as rehabilitating water supplies, distribute water treatment chemicals, water storage facilities, construct latrines and train health workers to prevent spread of disease, as well as specific support for pregnant and lactating women and survivors of gender-based violence. 

Madagascar: Strong cyclones with heavy rains are expected, mostly in the northern part of the country. A minimum of 300,000 people will be affected by a strong cyclone in the north. There is also high risk of flooding, including in the capital city of Antananarivo. In the south of the country, a drought is ongoing. CARE Madagascar runs a project for disaster risk reduction focusing on flooding in Antananarivo, as well as having provided food support in the south.

Mozambique: 140,000 people are already experiencing insecure access to food in the more drought prone southern part of the country. They are in critical need of support. Another one million people across the country risk food insecurity in the coming months. CARE is assessing the situation and planning for response focusing on providing food. 

Niger: El Niño related weather patterns, with large pockets of drought, delayed the start of seedlings growth, significantly affecting food production in areas already plagued by chronic food insecurity. The government estimates that 3.4 million people are in need of assistance. CARE is assisting more than 500.000 people with emergency supplies. 

Papua New Guinea: The government estimates more than 1.8 million people across the country are currently affected by extended drought and frost linked to El Niño. The highlands region – where CARE has a strong presence – have been the worst affected, with crops failing and water supplies drying up. CARE PNG is supporting the government by carrying out assessments in the areas where CARE has existing programs. Basic items such as water purification tablets, soap and buckets are being distributed.

Peru: El Niño is expected to bring warmer temperature and changed patterns of precipitation in November and December, causing damage to agriculture, infrastructure, loss of fishery and spread of diseases. The most affected regions will be in Peru’s northern areas, where heavy rains are expected to be stronger than most seasons of the phenomenon. On the other hand, Peru’s southern coast (Lima) will face an extremely dry season, with temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius. CARE Peru is designing contingency plans for ongoing projects and programs, as well as organizing information campaigns.

Philippines: More than half of the country is likely to be affected until early 2016 by 60-80 percent less rain. People in affected areas largely depend on rice, root crop, fruit and vegetable farming. This will decrease the supply of food especially in areas that were badly hit by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. CARE has supported more than 318,000 people affected by Haiyan and working to support 288 community organizations to strengthen food security.

Somalia: While a mild to moderate El Niño will enhance rains and result in good pasture and crop development, a severe event could lead to an increased risk of flooding along the main rivers. The current projection is that between 400,000 and 900,000 people in south central and in some parts of Puntland could be affected by floods. CARE will provide immediate assistance as well as support to recover, including emergency water trucking, food for displaced people, distribution of dignity and hygiene kits, solar lamps, construction of emergency latrines and rehabilitation of shallow wells and boreholes with flood resistant design.

Timor Leste: El Niño events generally bring drier conditions and often lead to a late onset and early finish to the wet season. Historically, the most significant impact on the population during El Niño years is reduced ground water availability.  In CARE Timor’s community magazine, Lafaek, basic information about El Niño and some preparedness tips have gone to print in the latest edition with expected distribution between October and December. This print medium reaches close to 45 per cent of all households in every municipality in the country.

Vanuatu: El Niño-driven drought is compounding the devastation caused by cyclone Pam in March 2015. There are reports that people can't grow food and that water is scarce. In response, CARE is distributing chickens and pigs for consumption and breading, drought resistant yams and peanut plants, and is conducting training on farming techniques that can conserve water and soil.

Zimbabwe: The last growing season was impacted by poor and erratic, resulting in sharp production losses across the region. The current forecasts are pessimistic for the early stages of the coming season from October to December. This raises the possibility of two consecutive poor cropping seasons against a backdrop of much reduced regional stocks. An estimated 1.5 million people are at risk of lacking food. CARE is responding by scaling up humanitarian assistance and resilience programming. CARE is looking at how existing and future projects can prepare for and best mitigate the potential negative effects in the coming year.


© 2011 Josh Estey/CARE