World Vision Emergencies
article • Monday, November 16th 2015

El Nino: World Vision prepares for the impact of extreme weather on children

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Families in Malawi wait to be registered for a food assistance programme

World Vision is responding globally to a worsening El Nino climate event that is going to impact millions of children with drought, erratic weather conditions and a predicted increase in storms in some regions. 

The phenomenon, linked to a warming of ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, has severe global implications –from the Pacific Islands to Africa and Central America. Scientists warn this has the potential to be one of the worst El Ninos since the 1950s when records began. 

Read our new report: When there is no food assistance

In Africa alone more than 11 million children are at risk.

In Africa alone more than 11 million children are at risk. By early next year a predicted 16 million people in Ethiopia will need food assistance. In Southern Africa drought has decimated crops in a number of countries forcing several to declare emergencies. Livestock are already dying.

World Vision is preparing for drought, sudden flooding and severe storms. Interventions include prepositioning emergency supplies, delivering food aid and emergency feeding to malnourished children and pregnant mothers, providing school meals to help keep children in class, and digging bore wells. Staff are also warning communities to be ready for the worst, helping those at risk prepare by reinforcing infrastructure, and distributing feed to hungry livestock to keep them alive. World Vision is also working with its micro-finance arm VisionFund to put in place quick-delivery recovery loans. These have already proved highly effective in getting people back on their feet following disasters in the Philippines and will now be applied in Africa. 

World Vision is preparing for drought, sudden flooding and severe storms.

World Vision’s work is focused on building resilience to disasters. In Africa, programmes that have focused on restoring soil and forestry have led to millions of hectares of land being saved from desertification. In Asia, a focus on helping communities prepare for typhoons and storms has helped thousands endure the strongest typhoons. 

However, this El Nino threatens to undermine progress in areas where resilience is still being built or where people are already living on the edge.

World Vision’s work is focused on building resilience to disasters.

In response, World Vision is working closely with governments, communities and other agencies like Unicef and WFP, to minimize the effects. Previous slow-onset emergencies like the 2012 Horn of Africa famine have had devastating consequences because governments failed to act quickly enough to alert their citizens or provide social safety nets to prevent the most vulnerable families losing loved ones and suffering impoverishment. Wealthy governments also delayed aid funded to countries that needed assistance. Tens of thousands of people died as a result.

World Vision says the same thing cannot happen again. 

“This El Nino is putting the most vulnerable –and that includes many millions of children –at great risk."

Children are especially at risk from El Nino. Immediate threats include death or injury from extreme weather, including heat stroke, drowning; diseases and illnesses, including cholera, typhoid, malaria, dengue and diarrhoea; and hunger resulting in stunting, wasting and malnutrition. These can result in long-term health impacts for children.  Children also suffer mental ill health, emotional distress and trauma when confronted with destructive weather, the loss of loved ones or massive detrimental life changes. These can impact the cognitive development of children.

Richard Rumsey, World Vision’s Resilience and Livelihoods director, said:

“This El Nino is putting the most vulnerable –and that includes many millions of children –at great risk. Over the next few months we are going to see many countries impacted by an El Nino weather event that could be as bad as any we have seen, and could be being worsened by climate change. Countries are already witnessing droughts, crop and livestock deaths and seeing children becoming increasingly malnourished.  If we act now with funding and intelligent programming, and support government efforts to aid their citizens, we can actually save lives, prevent children wasting and build communities that are more resistant to these events.”

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