Experts warn about La Niña, call for preparedness
This will increase the probability of above average rainfall and flooding in areas affected by El Niño-related drought, whilst at the same time making it more likely that drought will occur in areas that have been flooded due to El Niño.
More than 60 million people worldwide, about 40 million in East and Southern Africa alone, are projected to be food insecure due to the impact of the El Niño climate event.
The UN estimates that without the necessary action, the number of people affected by the combined impacts of the El Niño/La Niña could top 100 million.
To coordinate responses to these challenges and to mobilize the international community to support the affected governments, UN agencies and other partners met at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The meeting included the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office of Lesotho, Kimetso Henry Mathaba, Minister for Livestock, Forestry and Range of Somalia, Said Hussein Iid, and Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, Priscah Mupfumira, also attended.
Keynote speakers included World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas, and UN Special Envoy for El Niño and Climate, Ambassador Macharia Kamau.
Participants noted that almost $4 billion is required to meet the humanitarian demands of El Niño-affected countries and that almost 80 percent of this is for food security and agricultural needs.
The meeting called for action to recover agricultural livelihoods that have been severely damaged by the droughts associated with El Niño. Acting now will ensure that farmers have sufficient levels of agricultural inputs for upcoming planting seasons.
Furthermore, FAO, IFAD and WFP are redoubling efforts to mitigate the negative impacts and capitalize on positive opportunities of a likely La Niña phenomenon in the coming months. This means acting decisively to prepare for above-average rainfall in some areas and potential drought conditions in others.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva warned that the impact of El Niño on agricultural livelihoods has been enormous and with La Niña on the doorsteps the situation could worsen.
"El Nino has caused primarily a food and agricultural crisis", Graziano da Silva said.
He announced that FAO will therefore mobilize additional new funding to "enable it to focus on anticipatory early action in particular, for agriculture, food and nutrition, to mitigate the impacts of anticipated events and to strengthen emergency response capabilities through targeted preparedness investments."
Mobilizing resources for rapid action now can save lives and minimize damage while reducing costs in the future, said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. ■