The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has raised alarming concerns over the weather phenomenon known as El Niño, a weather condition of heavy rainfall caused by a rise in temperature of the Pacific Ocean. The WHO predicts a huge increase in the amount of people who are going to be affected by El Nino, making it a severe threat to global public health in this coming year. According to the WHO, at least 60 million people will be subjected to El Nino in 2016. Because El Niño is a weather condition affecting the Southern Hemisphere, the majority of people affected are living in developing countries, which makes them even more susceptible to the impacts of this weather.
El Niño spreads across the globe affecting Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America and it has already been disastrous. El Niño has lead to food shortages and clean water shortages and has spread disease, making it a threat to the health of millions. In the late nineties, the WHO found that floods caused by El Niño in Eastern Africa lead to outbreaks of Malaria, Cholera and Rift Valley Fever.
Dr Richard Brennan, Director of WHO’s Emergency Risk Management & Humanitarian Response Department, explained that even after El Niño winds down, there will be long term effects caused by the weather condition and ,therefore, immediate assistance to those affected will be necessary.
Additionally preventative measures are absolutely necessary, and Mr. Brennan stated, “To prevent unnecessary deaths and illnesses, governments must invest now in strengthening their preparedness and response efforts”.
So far, the WHO has given 76 million dollars to countries seeking financial support. These countries are Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. Many more countries will be affected by El Niño and, therefore, the WHO expects more requests for financial aid this year.
In order to take effective preventive measures and secure the safety of millions after El Niño has passed, the WHO will continue to need more funding. There needs to be more attention drawn to El Niño and the international catastrophe that it could potentially cause so that this issue is not overlooked.