El Niño: extreme weather devastating millions

Help children and communities survive severe food and water shortages caused by El Niño.

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What we're doing

World Vision is providing relief to over 1.6 million people globally. We are distributing food, providing agricultural and livelihood support, clean water, nutrition and hygiene programs, and ensuring children are protected from harm.

Our goal

Help over 4.2 million people affected by El Niño, by meeting the urgent needs of children and families, and building community resilience to future disasters.

What is El Niño?

El Niño is a natural phenomenon in which the ocean surface temperatures in the central to eastern Pacific become warmer than usual. It affects weather systems around the world, causing more rain in some regions, and none in others. It also causes temperatures to rise and more cyclones. 

Extreme weather caused by El Niño results in severe droughts and floods, often in the same region. Countries in eastern and southern Africa, the Pacific, south-east Asia and Central America are most at risk. The United Nations says that over 60 million people will be impacted by El Niño this year. 

El Niño happens every 3-7 years, however the 2015-16 phenomenon was one of the strongest in 50 years. Although this recent El Niño event has officially ended, the worst of its effects may be yet to come.

La Niña is the cooling phase which sometimes follows an El Niño. It tends to have the opposite climate effects to those of an El Niño, but it can have a more devastating impact as the coping capacities of communities are already overwhelmed. There is a 75 percent chance of La Niña occurring, most likely in late 2016 and early 2017.

Effects of El Niño

Extreme weather is severely impacting agricultural and fishing industries, causing crops to fail and livestock to die. Food production is depleted and water supplies are scarce in many parts of the world.

Food and water shortages are causing hunger, high rates of child malnutrition - which can have permanent effects on their physical and intellectual development - and the spread of waterborne diseases, such as cholera.

With no food at home, children are unable to concentrate at school or are forced to drop out to find work, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Food insecurity caused by El Niño is predicted to peak in early 2017, meaning children and families will need life-saving assistance well into next year.

El Niño and climate change 

It is not clear exactly how El Niño interacts with climate change. El Niño events are not caused by climate change, as they occur naturally. But scientists believe the effects of El Niño may be becoming more intense as a result of climate change.

According to the World Meteorological Organization the naturally occurring El Niño and human-induced climate change may interact and modify each other in ways which have never been experienced.


The urgency is beyond what we can express, it has gone to extreme because the harvest is much below what you usually get. Without much rain the crops have failed, so you’ve got a very serious food security situation.

Paul Sitnam, World Vision Southern Africa El Niño Emergency Response Director

Left: Amano, a father of nine from Ethiopia, says, “(This pond) dried up well before it should. Our children travel long distances to fetch water, share with wild animals, many children are dropping school and others are contracting waterborne diseases.” Right: Susan and Monita in Zambia try to dig for water, but the stream has dried up.

How is World Vision responding?


We are helping families and communities meet immediate needs in this emergency phase, as well as helping them to become more resilient to future disasters by addressing long-term food security.

  • Food: We are partnering with the United Nations World Food Programme and other agencies to provide immediate food assistance so vulnerable children and families have enough to eat. 
  • Agriculture and livelihoods: Providing agricultural and livestock training and equipment to help improve sustainable livelihoods and income, so families can provide for their basic needs and improve their resilience to future droughts. 
  • Health and nutrition: Providing therapeutic foods and nutrition supplements to severely malnourished children, and training parents on preparing nutritious meals.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene: Providing access to clean drinking water supplies and irrigation systems, and providing training on good hygiene behaviours to help prevent disease. 
  • Child protection: Helping kids to stay in school and prevent child labour and exploitation.


More than 10 million people are affected. In June, 211,928 people received food assistance. 31 wells and 23 toilets were constructed, and over 11,000 refugees received hygiene training.


2.8 million people are affected. World Vision has reached 651,744 people so far with food assistance, improved water sources and hygiene training.

Papua New Guinea

2.7 million people are affected. In April, 1,431 households from two provinces received jerry cans, water purification tablets, and hygiene training.

South Africa

Over 14 million people are affected. World Vision has reached 152,564 people so far by building water tanks and toilets, and protecting water springs and other water sources.

Solomon Islands

302,400 people are affected. In April, 20 communities and three health clinics received water tanks, jerry cans and drought awareness training, benefiting 12,000 people.


6.2 million people are in urgent of humanitarian assistance. In June, 43,222 people benefited from healthcare services, and water was trucked to 934 households.




Left: Avadrani and her son Somath carry their relief package in India. "This will help to feed me and my children for at least another month while the drought lasts," she says. Right: Members of a farmers association in Mozambique cultivate their field of sweet potatoes to help minimise effects of the drought.

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No maize will affect Precious' education as his family will have no food.

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Behari looks after goats in India, but the drought is severe.

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