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El Nino climate chaos will drive millions of children into desperate hunger, warns agency report


Millions of children will be pushed to the edge of starvation by one of the worst El Ninos on record, warns aid agency World Vision following the release of a report that shows the global food assistance system is crippled and unable to keep pace with massive humanitarian need.

With the world focused on the forthcoming World Climate Summit in Paris and facing an El Nino event meteorologists believe may be interacting with human-induced climate change, World Vision's report 'When There is No Food Assistance' found that millions of those most reliant on food, nutrition and cash support were already going without.

World Vision warns that without a rapid commitment to providing life-saving food assistance, and investment in livelihood protection, and resilience and social protection programmes, life for people already living on the edge will worsen, with millions living in Southern and Eastern Africa likely to bear the brunt of the extreme weather event.

World Vision's report states that almost 100 million of the world's most vulnerable women, men and children annually require food assistance but breaks in the food delivery and distribution pipeline often leave the most desperate with little or nothing. The agency said it was itself contracted to provide food assistance to 10.3 million people in 35 countries from October 2013 to September 2014, but only received enough resources to help 8 million people - leaving some 2.3 million people without critical food and nutrition support. Almost 1.4 million of those were children.

World Vision spoke to families living in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Niger and Somalia who had been promised help that didn't come.

In Somalia and DRC, children benefit from school meal programmes that ensure children don't miss out on education. But children and teachers reported that when food was not available, children's studies suffered, they were unresponsive and less likely to attend. One Somali mother said, ''Children don't play when they don't eat at school. They are always around the home, tired and hungry and I cannot provide enough food.''

Thabani Maphosa, World Vision's food assistance lead, said: ''Millions of the world's most desperate children are already going without the food assistance that has been promised to them. I'm deeply worried that this El Nino and increasing extreme climate events are going to push millions more people into extreme hunger or worse. Those attending the World Climate Conference need to understand the current system for feeding those most at risk is broken and much more needs to be done to help the poorest become more resilient to climate shocks.''

He called on humanitarian appeals for El Nino related crises to be met and for governments to urgently pledge funds to the $100 billion a year (by 2020) Green Climate Fund and then disperse them as quickly as possible to help countries impacted by climate change.

The report recommends three solutions:

  1. Find new money: Donors must heed early warning alerts and fully fund food assistance in countries affected by El Nino especially in East and Southern Africa.
  2. Protect lives and livelihoods: Prioritise combatting poor nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child's life (from conception to age 2). Without proper nutrition children suffer lifelong, irreversible physical and cognitive consequences. The international community must support affected governments in scaling up health and feeding interventions, and protecting community assets such as livestock and water resources.
  3. Build long-term resilience: Greater investments are needed in early warning monitoring that activate national social safety nets to protect children, manage disaster risks and build resilience through support for sustainable, profitable, climate smart agricultural livelihoods strategies for smallholder farmers.

Click to download the full version of World Vision's report 'When There is No Food Assistance'

World Vision is attending the climate change conference where it is urging governments to strengthen support for food security and resilience and to use improved child nutrition levels as an indicator for the actions governments need to take to protect children.

Key facts:

  • At last count 795 million people around the world, or one in nine, regularly don't have enough nutritious food to eat each day. [FAO, WFP and IFAD (2015)]
  • Each year, poor nutrition is an underlying cause of 2.8 million (45%) deaths in children under 5, and one in six children in developing countries. Roughly 100 million children are underweight. Almost 100 million of the most vulnerable global citizens require food assistance from the international community each year to ensure they have something to eat during a difficult time in their lives. [WFP (2014)]

 

*To learn more about the impact of climate change, click here

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