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$2.2 billion funding gap for El Niño "alarming", says UN Humanitarian Chief

26 Apr 2016


ERC O'Brien warns about the consequences of an alarming funding gap of over $2.2 billion for the provision of food, clean water, basic medicine, and seeds to make sure farmers do not lose their next harvest.

With millions of people across the world affected by droughts, floods and other extreme weather events triggered by El Niño, the international community must act now to address urgent humanitarian needs and support building communities’ resilience to future shocks, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

The current El Niño is one of the strongest on record affecting an estimated 60 million people including some of the most vulnerable in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific. The impact of El Niño-induced droughts is picking in late 2016 and early 2017. The situation could become even worse if a La Niña event - which often follows an El Niño – strikes towards the end of this year.

“We must act today to help people whose entire way of life and survival is threatened,” Mr. O’Brien said during a conference in Geneva today. “El Niño has already severely affected the health and food security of so many families and communities across the world. I am deeply worried about rising acute malnutrition among children under five and the increase in water- and vector-borne diseases. People urgently need food, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as health services,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Over the past months, governments, UN, NGOs and other humanitarian partners have stepped up El Niño-related preparedness and response work. Response plans have been completed in 13 countries, requesting some US$3.6 billion to meet critical needs for food and agricultural support, as well as nutrition, health and emergency water and sanitation needs. But the funding gap for the combined global El Niño-related response stands at over $2.2 billion. As some countries have not yet finalized their humanitarian response plans, this figure is expected to rise.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Assistant Administrator, Izumi Nakamitsu, said it was critical to invest now to help ensure vulnerable communities can cope better with the next El Niño or other crises.

“This shows again the importance of humanitarian and development agencies working together to support national and local governments during crises, to identify the risks for future disasters and build resilience. We can predict most crises, which gives us an opportunity to invest in prevention, preparedness and disaster risk reduction to reduce or end humanitarian need,” Ms Nakamitsu said.

Care International Secretary General and CEO, Dr. Wolfgang Jamann, said: “We need both the resources to respond now – and NGOs both local and international can respond at huge scale if provided with the funding we need – and the political will to break this cycle whereby early warning does not result in early response, despite the clear human and financial advantages of doing so”.