Via ReliefWeb, a report from WHO: Health preparedness for El Niño event 2015-2016. Click or tap through to download the PDF. The summary:
WMO has confirmed reports that a mature and strong El Niño is present in the tropical Pacific Ocean. International climate models suggest that the 2015/2016 El Niño will strengthen further before the end of 2015 and become one of the strongest El Niño events in the past twenty years.
The El Niño phenomenon is a major concern to global public health as it has the potential to exacerbate health risks associated with extreme weather in different parts of the world. The last major event of similar magnitude in 1997-1998 resulted in significant health impacts across multiple WHO Regions, for example:
• in Eastern Africa, extensive flooding led to food insecurity associated with widespread economic losses in agriculture and livestock, as well as significant destruction of health infrastructure throughout the region;
• in Djibouti, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania unusually high rainfall triggered major outbreaks of cholera in, as well as unexpectedly large outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania, for example, in Garissa District, Kenya (population 231,022) alone, there were 170 deaths from haemorrhagic fever and an estimated 27,500 infections;
• in Latin America, Peru and central Ecuador experienced rainfall more than 10 times the usual levels, with consequential flooding and extensive landslides that resulted in widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure;
• the Pacific Island region was hit by a drought so severe that 50% of Fiji’s population required government water delivery, and the sugarcane harvest was slashed by 50% with widespread economic impacts.
The effects of the current El Niño are starting to be observed in various countries. The situation in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, where water and food shortages are starting to impact on nutritional and health status with associated morbidity and mortality, are immediate concerns. Indonesia has declared a state of emergency in several regions due to water shortages, fire conditions and drought. Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo are experiencing large outbreaks of cholera which could be exacerbated by extreme conditions.
The signs are that the situation in some countries will worsen as the full effects of El Niño are felt.