Project Stories:

El Niño and its impact on the relief work of humedica

by LKO, 2016/02/27

In our article series on El Niño we already dealt with the question what this climate phenomenon exactly is. We also had the opportunity to talk to the climate expert Mojib Latif about his forecast on possible consequences of this phenomenon.

These will particularly affect countries and regions, which usually come to the attention of the public due to climate change and severe poverty in context with existing or coming disasters. At the moment the effects of El Niño concern mainly the East and South of the African continent. While in the South some regions see heavy rainfalls for weeks, others suffer from extreme aridity such as the humedica project countries Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

Ethiopia: Aridity and the fear of impending famine

While the South of Ethiopia is confronted with heavy rains, wide areas in the North and East undergo a severe drought, which many experts assign to the climate phenomenon El Niño. Since many years it has not been so dry in Ethiopia.

Even if is the country is better prepared in comparison with former dry periods, meanwhile the situation is so alarming that, according to the Ethiopian government, up to 18 million people are dependant on food subsidies to avoid acute undernourishment in the coming weeks and months.

At the moment experts assume that it is still possible to prevent another famine if enough financial means are provided, but as so often the question arises, where the money will come from. The current worldwide crises strain the budgets of donators and aid organisations, so that there is no solution in sight for this pressing issue by now.

The situation is particularly dramatic in the Somali region, where more than four million people live in a rural area and therefore depend directly on a functioning agriculture and livestock production. It also affects the two refugee camps Kobe and Melkadida at the Ethiopian-Somali border, which each house about 40.000 people and where humedica teams provide medical care for the residents.

Like in many other regions of Ethiopia there has not been any rain since spring last year. No easing of the situation is in sight and the weather forecasts for the coming weeks predict time and again the same: dryness.

„Recently we had to reduce the food rations of the refugees due to the lack of money. The drought deteriorates further the already critical food supply situation.“ explains Raphael Marcus, head of the humedica emergency and disaster aid. „We must expect that the teams in our health care stations will have to treat more and more patients suffering from poor nutrition and undernourishment. We also have to anticipate that in the case of a famine many people from Somalia will flee to the Ethiopian camps. Then we will have to care suddenly for many more people. “

While the situation in Ethiopia worsens daily, other countries are already in the midst of a famine. Here too, the weather performs violent caprioles.

Zimbabwe: State of emergency in the granary of Africa

4.000 kilometres away also the landlocked state Zimbabwe faces a drought caused by the climate phenomenon El Niño. Like in Ethiopia in this humedica project land as well the rural regions are especially affected. About 2,5 million people suffer from a severe shortage of food, which caused the head of state Robert Mugabe in February this year to declare officially a state of emergency.

The persistent dryness and very high temperatures already destroyed three quarters of the crop and dried out fields and watering places last year. Now Zimbabwe – formerly known as the granary of Africa – has to import thousands of tons of grains in order to save its inhabitants from starving.

The province Manikaland in the East is also severely affected. Here humedica compensates the pre-existing insufficient supply situation by the periodic distribution of goods since 2008.

„Like in Ethiopia also in Zimbabwe innumerable people face an acute food shortage. In Manikaland the hospitals are already incapable of providing food for their patients, so the relatives have to fill in. But all too often they also do not know how to get hold of food. Here you feel the consequences of El Niño very clearly“, illustrates Raphael Marcus the situation.

How will the humanitarian aid proceed in face of El Niño?

The present situation in the South and East of Africa clearly shows the impact of El Niño on the worldwide weather. Leading climate experts expect an ever intensifying phenomenon that in combination with the global warming will result in an increase of extreme weather conditions and climate-related disasters.

Consequentially humanitarian organisations like humedica will have to deal with even more droughts, forest fires, landslides and floods in the future. In order to make fast aid interventions possible, they have to rework their structures already today. In the affected countries it is also mandatory to install stable political conditions, to develop protective mechanisms and begin preparations together with representatives of politics and society.

Even if the current El Niño will finish in spring, one thing is certain: the next one will come for sure.

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