Food insecurity spreads as El Niño casts its shadow over Pacific and Caribbean states


Photo credit: FAO

A woman sells rice at Haití’s Pontsonde market on the banks of the Artibonite River.

Ongoing conflicts and droughts exacerbate food needs

Drought linked to El Niño and civil conflict have pushed the number of countries currently in need of external food assistance up to 37 from 34 in March, according to a new FAO report.

The new edition of the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, released today, adds Papua New Guinea, Haiti and Nigeria to the list of countries requiring outside help to feed their own populations or communities of refugees they are hosting.

In Haiti, output of cereals and starchy roots in 2015 dropped to its lowest level in 12 years. Around 3.6 million people, more than one-third of the population, are food insecure, almost half of them “severely”, while at least 200 000 are in an extreme food emergency situation, according to the report.

Haiti’s woes are largely due to El Niño, which has also exacerbated the worst drought in decades in Central America’s dry corridor.

In Southern Africa, El Niño impacts have significantly worsened food security and the 2016 cereal harvest currently underway is expected to drop by 26 percent from the already reduced level of the previous year, triggering a “substantial rise” in maize prices and import requirements in the coming marketing year.

Prolonged drought in Papua New Guinea last year has been followed by heavy rains and localized flooding in early 2016, affecting around 2.7 million people. Cereal output in the country’s Highland region is expected to suffer a severe shortfall, while the harvest in neighboring Timor-Leste is expected to be reduced for the second year in a row.

While El Niño is now over, the World Meteorological Organization forecasts a 65 percent chance it will be followed by a La Niña episode, which typically triggers the opposite precipitation patterns — potentially a boon for parched land but also posing the risk of flooding.

Conflicts are taking an increasing toll

Read the full article: FAO


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

%d bloggers like this: