UNICEF alerts on danger of El-Niño to children

 The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday estimated that lives of 11 million African children were at risk due to intensity of El-Niño.


El-Niño1 El-Niño is a climate pattern linked to the warming of water surface in the Pacific Ocean, which can have a profound effect on weather patterns around the world.

The alert is contained in a statement signed by the Executive Director of UNCEF, Anthony Lake, and made available to The Renaissance in Lagos.

The Fund stated that the consequences could become generational if the affected communities were not supported.

“An estimated 11 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water in Eastern and Southern Africa as a result of a strengthening El-Niño.

“It is also causing droughts and floods in parts of Asia, the Pacific and Latin America.

“The consequences could ripple through generations unless affected communities receive support.

“Amid crop failures and lack of access to drinking water that are leaving children malnourished and at risk of killer diseases,’’ the statement read in part.

UNICEF further reiterated that El-Niño could also increase diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, apart from immediate deaths and injury.

“Beside immediate risks of death and injury, El-Niño can lead to significant increases in diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers of children.

“When extreme weather deprives communities of their livelihoods, young children often suffer from under nutrition.

“This puts them at greater risk for illness, delayed mental development and premature death,’’ the Fund stated.

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According to the director, debates of world leaders gathered in Paris should focus on limiting global warming.

“Children and their communities need our help to recover from the impact of El-Niño and to prepare for the further damage it could unleash.

“At the same time, its intensity and potential destructiveness should be a wake-up call as world leaders gather in Paris.

“World leaders will gather in Paris for the 21st United Nations Climate Conference, also known as COP21, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

“The goal is to reach a universal, binding agreement aimed at limiting global warming by cutting greenhouse emissions,’’ Lake stated.

El-NiñoAccording to UNICEF, El-Niños are not caused by climate change, but scientists believed they are becoming more intense as a result of climate change.

“Many countries now experiencing El-Niño are those that face the gravest threat from climate change.

“Many of the areas affected also have high poverty levels,’’ Lake added.

According to the forecast by UNICEF, if El-Niño continues to strengthen, weather phenomenon, among the strongest on record, is likely to cause more floods and droughts, fuel Pacific typhoons and cyclones in more areas.

It stated that in Somalia more than 3 million people were in need of support amid crop failures and food shortages, with severe flooding anticipated exacerbating the situation.

In Ethiopia, 8.2 million people currently require immediate food assistance and 350,000 children expected to require treatment for severe acute malnutrition by the end of 2015.

Indonesia, El-Niño has also exacerbated the impact of peat and forest fires.

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According to the forecast, in August and September alone, haze caused 272,000 people to suffer from acute respiratory infections, mostly affecting children.

In Pacific nations, El-Niño threatens to leave more than 4 million people without food or drinking water.

Central America, the drought caused by El-Niño is one of the most severe on record, with some 3.5 million people affected in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Peru, an estimated 1.1 million people, including 400,000 children and adolescents could be affected, according to the Government.

Ecuador, authorities believe 1.5 million people are at risk, about half of them children, the reports stated.

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