El Niño parches Asia Pacific, destroying crops and drying up water sources

Peruvian Coast Pounded by El Nino

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -- Severe El Niño-linked drought has destroyed crops, killed farm animals and dried up water sources across East Asia and the Pacific, aid workers said, and UNICEF appealed for $62 million to assist children impacted by various crises in the region.

Humanitarian agencies are monitoring and responding to droughts and food insecurity in an area from Indonesia and the Philippines, southeast to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

"El Niño is peaking at the moment, and we expect the impacts to come up after the peak," said Krishna Krishnamurthy, a regional climate risk analyst for the World Food Programme.

Krishnamurthy visited East Timor earlier this month and saw areas that were parched even though their rainy season was supposed to have started in November.

"Rivers are completely dry in several parts of the country," he said, noting some hard-hit areas were deceptively green.

"I saw green paddy fields, but it's not rice - it's weeds and grass. It's difficult to monitor remotely (from satellite images). That's why the post-harvest assessment will be quite critical."

The El Niño phenomenon, occurring every few years and caused by unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean, triggers heavy rains and floods in South America and dry, scorching weather in Asia and East Africa, and usually lasts about one year.

UNICEF launched a $62 million appeal on Tuesday to help children affected by drought, conflict and other crises, focusing on areas such as nutrition, health, water and sanitation.

UNICEF has called for $25 million for its work in conflict-affected Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states in Myanmar; $18 million for North Korea; $10 million for conflict-affected Mindanao province in the Philippines; and $5 million for Pacific Island countries.

See more about El Niño's effect:

El Nino's effects
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El Niño parches Asia Pacific, destroying crops and drying up water sources
NOAA has released an update to its El Niño advisory. This image shows the satellite sea surface temperature departure for the month of October 2015, where orange-red colors are above normal temperatures and are indicative of El Niño. This event is forecast to continue through the winter, likely ranking as one of the top 3 strongest events since 1950, before fading in late spring or early summer. El Niño has already produced significant global impacts, and is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States during the upcoming months. Seasonal outlooks generally favor below-average temperatures and above-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation over the northern tier of the United States. (Photo via NOAA)
MAKASSAR, SOUTH SULAWESI, INDONESIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Two girls are seen walk behind of dried up ricefield at Manggara Bombang village, Maros district on September 21, 2015 in Makassar, Indonesia. Indonesia's national disaster management agency has declared that the majority of the country's 34 provinces are experiencing drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, the worst drought in the past five years. The dry season forces villagers to walk long distances to find clean water. (Photo by Agung Parameswara/Getty Images)
NOAA issued an update to the El Niño analysis on September 10, 2015, in which forecasters from the Climate Predication Center say a strong El Niño is in place and likely to peak in late fall/early winter, and gradually weaken through spring 2016. This image shows the satellite-based average sea surface temperature data from the week of August 31 - September 6, 2015. Blue areas are cooler than the 1981-2010 average; red areas are warmer than that historical base period. The large pool of warmer than average temperatures along the equatorial Pacific is indicative of the El Niño conditions. (Photo via NOAA)
Sea surface temperature anomalies in November 1997 (left) compared to July 2015 (right). (Photo via NOAA)
A couple tries to cool off from the heat caused by El Nino with water overflowing from a defunct but still watery reservoir called the Wawa dam in Montalban in Rizal, east of Manila on February 21, 2010. El Niño was expected to dehydrate the Metro Manila area over in the next two months, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). Earlier this month the government warned a possible drought caused by the El Nino weather system could slash Philippines rice yields this year. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Tons of dead fish are seen on the banks of the Solimoes River due the water's low level, November 25, 2009 near Manaquiri, 120Km from Manaus. The dry season, affected by the weather phenomenon EL Nino, is worse this year. According a study from Brazil's universities USP,UNICAMP,UFRJ and Embrapa, the country could lose some USD 3.6 billion over the next 40 years. AFP PHOTO / ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Heavy clouds covers Indonesia's capital city of Jakarta on November 29, 2009. The month of November ends the dry season and starts the wet period but the weather bureau anticipates El Nino's dry spell to affect Indonesian weather. AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

Here are updates on El Niño and drought from across the region:


The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries reported 50 percent less rainfall than normal. In southern Viqueque district, farm animals are falling sick and dying due to lack of feed and dwindling water supplies, though there has been some rain since Jan. 15 which may alleviate the situation, it said.


On Mindanao island, lack of rain has damaged more than 500 hectares of farmland in Zamboanga city, with rice, corn, vegetables and bananas "lost with no chance of recovery", according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In North Cotabato, also on Mindanao, authorities declared a state of calamity because of $5 million of damage to crops, OCHA said, adding that 85 percent of the country was forecast to face drought by April.


An estimated 2.7 million people - more than a third of the population - are affected by a combination of drought and frost, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said, adding that priority needs are food, water and agricultural recovery.

An IOM survey last month found 85 percent of communities assessed in Enga, Simbu and Jiwaka provinces rely on unprotected water sources, and 47 percent of respondents had a household member who had diarrhea within four weeks of the survey.


Drought warnings or alerts are in force for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, Vanuatu and Palau, according to UNICEF, which said more frequent and intense storms are expected in 2016, with Pacific islands suffering the most.

School attendance rates have dropped in the Pacific Islands, where children are hungry and dehydrated, and face a high risk of malnutrition due to crop failure, water shortages and poor sanitation, UNICEF said.


Severe drought in four agricultural provinces in 2015 has led to smaller harvests and reduced access to clean water, impacting the health of women and children, UNICEF said.

In drought-hit provinces, 25,000 children are suffering severe acute malnutrition and require immediate treatment, and there has been a 72 percent increase in diarrhea among children under 5, it said.

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Timor Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/El%20Nino%20Crop%20Situation%20Report%2020160115.pdf

OCHA (on Mindanao, Philippines): http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ROAP_Snapshot_160125.pdf

85 percent of country to face drought (Philippines): http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHAPhilippines%20Humanitarian%20Bulletin%20No1%20%28January%202016%29%20FINAL.pdf

IOM (Papua New Guinea): http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/IOM%20Sitrep%20%236%20-%20PNG%20Drought%20%28Jan25%29_final.pdf

UNICEF appeal for East Asia and the Pacific:http://www.unicef.org/eapro/media_25142.html




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