10 Things You Need To Know About El Niño

Here are ten things to know about El Niño, the atmospheric event that threatens to complicate the food security situation in various countries across three continents. Please help the World Food Programme (WFP) raise awareness by sharing these facts on Twitter.

1) El Niño refers to a pattern of unusually warm water stretching across the surface of the Pacific Ocean. It occurs every 3-7 years.

2) During an El Niño event, the relationship between winds and ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean changes, modifying weather conditions around the world. 

3) The resulting changes in rainfall and temperature affect crop and pasture development across many of the areas where WFP works.

4) An El Niño event has been active since March 2015 and is steadily strengthening as it approaches its maximum intensity in late 2015, before subsiding in early 2016. 

5) Over the next 12 months, El Niño could potentially affect the food security of a large number of already vulnerable people who are dependent on agriculture and livestock for their livelihood in Central America, most of Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia.  

6) There are indications that it could become one of the most intense El Niños of the past 30 years.

7) Impacts in grain-producing countries could lead to higher and more volatile commodity prices and jeopardize the fragile food security of the people WFP serves, who already spend a large proportion of their income on food.

8) Impacts may be exacerbated by conflict and other factors such as urbanisation climate change and land degradation.

9) Impacts will be more severe where communities are already suffering from the cumulative effects of past poor growing seasons. They may already have been adopting a range of detrimental coping strategies. These include skipping meals, selling off their assets and pulling children out of school.

10) It is possible that WFP will be stretched operationally and financially during 2016 when the impacts of the El Niño event translate into increased food assistance needs across most of our areas of operation.

Learn more about hunger and malnutrition from WFP's comprehensive list of Facts About Hunger and Malnutrition.