Aid agency says increased funding essential to provide drought victims with food, water as impacts linked to El Nino and climate change start to bite
By Ed King
A major crisis is brewing in Africa and Latin America, with severe food shortages linked to an ongoing drought likely to hit in early 2016, according to the Oxfam aid agency.
It says the world’s top humanitarian and food agencies will face an “unprecedented level of strain” next year if erratic rains continue to blight already parched landscapes.
Tens of millions of people will face hunger, disease, water shortages and dangerous journeys to find new and safer lands if early action is not taken to avert disaster.
“Places like Ethiopia, Haiti and Papua New Guinea are already feeling the effects of drought and crop failure,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam humanitarian director.
“We urgently need to get help to these areas to make sure people have enough food and water.
“Aid agencies are already stretched responding to the crises in Syria, South Sudan and Yemen. We cannot afford to allow other large-scale emergencies to develop elsewhere.”
The warning comes as some UK MPs lobby the government to scale back its overseas spending and focus on helping victims of the country’s recent spate of floods in the north of the country.
“Where there is money set aside to help flood victims around the world it should now be diverted to help people suffering in the UK,” said former environment chief Owen Paterson.
Oxfam claims that without further support it faces a $25 million funding gap in Ethiopia alone – and will be unable to help 777,000 people gain access to emergency food and water.
Ethiopia’s government says 10.2 million people will need humanitarian assistance in 2016, at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion, while Malawi predicts 2.8 million of its citizens will require help.
Erratic rainfalls across the world over the past few months have been linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon, which occurs naturally roughly every five years and releases huge amounts of heat from the Southern Oceans.
This has global impacts, frequently leading to drought in Australia and Indonesia, and heavy rains in California and Latin America.
Rainfall patterns in Kenya, Somalia, South Africa and India’s annual monsoon can also be affected. Famine, outbreaks of disease and conflict have been blamed on the weather event.
According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the El Nino event the world is currently experiencing is likely to be one of the strongest yet, buoyed by temperatures boosted by global warming.