El Niño in Asia

 

Regional overview

The impacts of El Niño began in Asia-Pacific in mid-2015 and subsequently affected at least 11 countries in the region. Effects have generally comprised of extended dry spells or drought leading to water shortages, prolonged lean seasons and food shortages.

As well as creating a need for urgent humanitarian assistance including food, water, nutrition, livelihoods and protection interventions, El Niño has also increased vulnerabilities in countries with limited preparedness and response capacity, placing vulnerable groups, including women, girls, people living with disabilities and the elderly, at increased risk of violence, discrimination and exclusion from basic services.

The El Niño phenomenon has now ended  and recent rainfalls have eased drought conditions in many of the affected countries in the region, however, humanitarian needs still persist with food shortages not expected to peak in many areas until the end of the year. Additionally there is a 50 per cent chance of a La Niña event beginning later in the year that would likely compound humanitarian needs in affected countries. 

 

 

Key challenges and recommendations

The impact of El Niño remains varied across the region with on-going humanitarian need, particularly as a result of persistent food shortages, in many areas. The combination of consecutive failed harvests as a result of El Niño induced drought and the looming effects of La Niña, means urgent action is needed to curb a potential humanitarian crisis and prevent the erosion of development gains made over the last decade.

La Niña may affect the same areas as those already impacted by El Niño but is typically associated with the opposite weather effects creating a risk of severe flooding and further damage to crops that could exacerbate food shortages. Currently there is a 50 per cent chance of a La Niña event beginning in October-November 2016. Extreme weather events, including wetter than usual climate conditions, have already been noted in the region.

Given the potential for an increase in humanitarian need as a result of La Niña-related extreme weather events, efforts should be made to support governments to ensure readiness in case of a deterioration of the humanitarian situation. Experience from El Niño responses has shown that the humanitarian community must work to agree on a set of triggers for response, act promptly on early warning signs, and invest in early response and preparedness work.

Donors should be encouraged to work with affected governments, humanitarian and development partners to review funding decisions based on existing and projected needs, early warning signs and forecasting, and consider expanding the flexibility of humanitarian financing to adapt to current and changing risks.

The impacts of El Niño and La Niña risk reversing development progress by for example, increasing inequalities and exclusion from basic services. Mitigating future risks and impacts of extreme weather events in vulnerable communities can only be effectively ensured if there is closer coordination between humanitarian and development actors. Strengthening preparedness and response capacities, must therefore be coupled with longer-term investments by Governments, humanitarian and development partners, donors and other actors such as the private sector and scientific community - in partnership with vulnerable local communities - in resilience building, disaster risk reduction and development.

 

Additional resources