While we are only just into 2016, we are already hearing forecasts about the impacts of the current El Niño on vulnerable communities around the world. Climatologists are predicting this phase of El Niño is likely to be one of the strongest in recorded history. Droughts, floods and other extreme weather exacerbated by El Niño are driving families from their homes, hurting people’s ability to earn an income, triggering food shortages, and threatening health and nutrition.
We saw very clearly in 2015 the havoc it wreaked. Ethiopia’s worst drought in 50 years caused harvests to fail, leaving 10.2 million people in need of relief food assistance. In Indonesia, drought has made it difficult to fight fires caused by slash and burn practices, leading to toxic haze that has caused almost half a million cases of acute respiratory infection. Flooding in India took lives. More than 17 million people will face crisis food insecurity due to El Niño’s impacts, particularly in Africa and Latin America.
While we cannot stop El Niño, we can plan for the effects of too much or too little water. Climate variability is only increasing in frequency and magnitude and that means we need to be resilient in the face of these stresses. Early warning systems for farmers, innovative financing to protect livestock assets and roads that can harvest rain are just a few examples of how we can adapt to a changing climate and save lives.
I’m confident that while 2016 may be a tough year with rising humanitarian need driven by both climate and conflict stresses, it can also be a pivotal year in advancing resilience around the world. I look forward to working with you over the coming year.
Global Resilience Partnership