El Niño in East Africa

In the Horn of Africa region, a drought exacerbated by El Niño has directly affected the region, leading to an increase in food insecurity and malnutrition. As of August 2016, close to 24 million people in the region are facing critical and emergency food insecurity levels, a doubling of numbers compared to August 2015. In Ethiopia alone, 9.7 million people require emergency food assistance to meet their basic food needs, and some 420,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 2.36 million children from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

Enhanced rainfall due to El Niño was favourable to most of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania; leading to good pasture, crop development and replenishment of water sources and an overall improvement in the food and nutrition security for the last season (Oct-Dec 2015). Excessive rains in late 2015 and in the March to May rainy season of 2016 however led to flooding in parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Heavy rains intensified in late April, affecting nearly 410,000 people, displacing 231,916 people and killing 271 people in the region. We also saw a rise in the spread of water/vector borne diseases in the region. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported cholera and Acute Watery Diarrhoea outbreaks in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan and DRC.

While the El Niño weather event can now be considered over, IGAD-ICPAC and global climate partners predict that the impact is likely to be felt through 2016 and into 2017.

Historic El Niño impact in the region

Historically El Niño had a variable impact on the region, ranging from floods affecting more than 3.4 million people in 2006/2007 to drought affecting more than 14 million people in 2009/2010 (source: EMDAT). While there are sub-regional differences, historical comparisons show that overall humanitarian needs in the region are higher in El Niño years than non-El Niño years.

El Niño response in the region


Following a mid-year review in August 2016, the Government and humanitarian partners revised their Humanitarian Requirements Document. The updated HRD requires a total of $1.6 billion (63 per cent funded as of September) with additional requirements for nutrition, health, WASH, education, protection, logistics and emergency shelter /non-food items until December 2016. Despite recent improvements due to an average to above average Belg harvest, 9.7 million people remain food insecure in Ethiopia. With the June to September rains ongoing a further decline in food insecurity is expected after the Meher harvest in October / November 2016. However, many of the areas worst-affected by the 2015 El Nino induced drought will continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, at least through September 2016, as households continue to face significant difficulty in meeting their basic food needs. Furthermore, southern pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Ethiopia are at risk of experiencing below-average rainfall in the last quarter of 2016. This may lead to an earlier and worse than normal deterioration of livestock body conditions and livestock productivity. According to UNICEF, the number of Priority 1 malnutrition hotspots have reduced to 206 (from 219 in March 2016). However, high admissions for acute malnutrition continue, with some 420,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 2.36 million children from moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). In addition, an estimated 4 million children (an increase from 1.3 million in January 2016) will require school feeding for the new academic year starting in September 2016.

By June 2016, five rounds of food assistance had reached the targeted 10.2 million drought-affected people in six regions, with more than 200,000 people receiving cash assistance. Seeds were distributed to 1.5 million people, more than 83,000 livestock were treated for diseases, and 15,100 households in the Somali region received vouchers for animal health services. Water trucking provided at least 1.3 million people access to safe drinking water prior to the Belg rainy season. Water support also reached more than 219,000 children in 60 schools while more than 88,000 school children benefited from the school feeding programme. More than 80,000 people affected by flood, drought and conflict received emergency shelter support, and more than 197,000 people received medical services. Some 700,000 children received measles vaccinations while more than 490,000 Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) and more than 170,000 Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) cases affecting children under five and pregnant women were treated. As a result, the estimated number of children that require SAM treatment decreased from 458,000 to 420,000.


Some 5 million people, or more than 40 per cent of the population, are in need of food and livelihoods assistance in Somalia. Of these people, 1.1 million are facing Crisis (IPC 3 Phase) and Emergency (IPC 4 Phase) food insecurity levels, especially from among the protracted IDP caseload with severely constrained food security and income opportunities. Over 300,000 acutely malnourished children need urgent nutrition support, including treatment for more than 50,000 who are severely malnourished and far more vulnerable than any other group.

A below-average 2016 Gu harvest, due to erratic and below-average April-June rains, affected food availability and translated into food price increases. In areas such as Hiraan region, flooding destroyed more than 80 per cent of crops. The upcoming Deyr rains are projected to be below-average

In the first half of 2016, some 70,000 people were temporarily displaced by flooding along the Shabelle River in Belet Weyne, Hiraan region. More than 14,000 cases of acute diarrhoea and cholera were recorded — 58 per cent of these cases were children under age 5. This is a significant increase compared to 5,257 cases that were reported in the whole of 2015.

Since October 2015, humanitarian partners have scaled up critical life-saving and life-sustaining assistance in drought affected areas of Puntland and Somaliland. Thanks to reprogramming of existing resources and additional funding received in late 2015 and early 2016, hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people have already been assisted. In September, humanitarian partners updated the Call for Aid launched in March, seeking US$105 million to scale up critical life-saving assistance for people in the drought-affected Puntland and Somaliland. The updated Call for Aid highlights a $61 million funding gap to reach 1.7 million people in the affected northern regions.

Health partners delivered health care services to more than 174,000 people in Puntland and Somaliland from January to July 2016. In the same period, the Food security cluster reached nearly 300,000 people with food and safety net-related interventions. Approximately 93,000 people benefited from activities aimed at building livelihoods. Another 177,000 people received livelihood seasonal inputs including seeds, farming tools, fishing equipment, irrigation vouchers and livestock treatment and distribution. The Education cluster reached over 26,000 learners while about 43,000 people benefited from protection activities. The Nutrition cluster admitted more than 34,600 acutely malnourished children into outpatient therapeutic and targeted supplementary feeding programmes. The WASH cluster reached nearly 242,000 people with temporary and sustainable access to safe water. Mobile health clinics and hygiene promotion activities are ongoing in the affected areas. More than 12,400 children received emergency immunization.



The Sudan El Nino Mitigation and Preparedness Plan was issued in February 2016, complementing the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan. The joint appeal by the Government of Sudan and humanitarian partners sought $82 million for three months to support 3.5 million people in 82 localities across Abyei PCA, Al Gezira, Blue Nile, all Darfur states, Gedaref, Kassala, all Kordofan states, Red Sea, Sennar and White Nile states. As of 31 August, the funding gap for the El Nino response was $59 million.

UNICEF reported a higher peak in severe acute malnutrition (SAM) admissions between January and June 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, and the Ministry of Health recorded the highest SAM rates (7 per cent) in East Darfur State as of July 2016 (This includes South Sudanese refugee children). North Darfur, North Kordofan and Kassala, which were most affected by El Nino, were also hit by flooding as a result of above average rainfall since June. By the end of August, according to Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission, the seasonal flooding had affected an estimated 204,000 people, destroyed more than 22,000 houses and resulted in at least 98 deaths.

To date, food security and livelihoods (FSL) interventions have reached 750,000 affected people in all Darfur states, North and West Kordofan, Kassala, Red Sea and Gedaref. This includes some 205,000 people reached with livestock and agricultural assistance, and about 577,000 people reached with food assistance. FEWSNET projects that food security in North Darfur, North Kordofan and Kassala is likely to improve from October 2016 to January 2017 due to better availability of agricultural labour opportunities and improved availability and prices of cereals with the beginning of the next harvest.


Since November 2015, some 7,500 people (1,500 families) have arrived from Ethiopia and settled in Ali Sabieh (3,500), Dikhil (1,500) and Djibouti city (2,500). On average, they had 3 heads of livestock per family, which is far below average and under the minimum number to continue pastoral activities. The number of people displaced by drought is expected to increase over the coming months, up to 12,000 by the end of May. Humanitarian partners in Djibouti are seeking urgent funding to address the needs of these new arrivals.

Regional funding update


El Niño Contingency and Response Plans