Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Super El Niño Set To Put Millions At Risk of Hunger

The non-governmental organisation Oxfam International has warned that a super El Niño and climate change will leave at least ten million people around the world hungry this year due to drought and erratic rains.In its report “Entering Uncharted Waters: El Niño and the threat to food security”, published on Thursday, Oxfam said that crops have already failed in parts of southern Africa and Central America, driving up the price of maize. It pointed out that in Zimbabwe the maize harvest is 35 per cent below average following drought.The report also warned that by February 2016 over two million people in Malawi are expected to be struggling to find enough food.El Niño is characterised by an abnormal warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean and has a significant effect on weather around the world. The term was first used at the end of the 19th Century to describe a warm current off the coast of Peru at Christmas. On average the phenomenon takes place every seven or eight years. However, Oxfam warned that scientists have predicted that climate change could double the frequency of “super El Niños”.  According to Oxfam International’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, “millions of poor people are already feeling the effects of this super El Niño, seeing their crops fail and the price of staple foods soar because of shortages. Such extreme weather events are only going to increase as climate change ramps up. 2014 was the hottest year on record and this year looks set to exceed it”. The report warned that the greatest problems may occur in southern Africa, stating that “the annual rains across southern Africa are notoriously fickle”. It pointed out that last year there were borderline El Niño conditions, with late and erratic rainfall followed by extraordinarily heavy rains “bringing extensive flooding to southern Malawi and northwest Mozambique”. In Mozambique, El Niño is associated with drought during what is normally the wettest period - January to March. Drought in these months could lead to severe crop failures. El Niño has been blamed for the serious food shortages in much of southern and central Mozambique in 2002 and for the severe drought which devastated the country in 1992.

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