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El Niño is putting millions at risk across Latin America and around the globe

By Oxfam
Maria Marcelina Tista Sis and her family are benefitting from Oxfam's drought response in Guatemala, which has provided people with cash for work opportunities. To help the family meet its needs, Marcelina weaves traditional belts which she sells locally for about 125 quetzals each (or about $16). Coco McCabe/Oxfam

While the weather patterns of El Niño are coming to an end, its devastating effects are predicted to only get worse. And with the current lack of attention and funding, the global response is not enough.

El Niño is currently affecting 60 million people around the globe—at least 7 million of those live in Latin America and the Caribbean. Oxfam and the international community are working to help the millions facing flooding, water and food shortages, and more. Right now, 3.5 million people in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador do not have enough to eat, after drought has devastated several cycles of crops.

Recently, governments and other international donors met in Geneva to try to meet the growing needs. Unfortunately, even after new pledges, a funding gap of over $1.7 billion dollars remains.

Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Director Nahuel Arenas said, “El Niño has put millions of people across Latin America at risk of hunger due to failed harvests that have depleted their food sources and incomes. Governments and international donors must not wait. Their response to this huge slow-onset crisis must be decisive and immediate—but the funding and the urgency still aren’t there.”

Oxfam is working with local partner organizations in 22 countries to help those affected by El Niño. Within Latin America and the Caribbean, we are providing El Niño support in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Paraguay, and Nicaragua, with plans to reach 480,000 people in the region before the end of the year. We are addressing immediate needs by providing food vouchers and clean water, while also helping communities adapt to these extreme weather patterns and prepare for future emergencies by offering support with farming techniques and helping build infrastructure.

In addition to the immediate attention and funding needed for this crisis, Oxfam is also calling on governments and international donors to develop medium and long-term plans to tackle climate change which makes super El Niños more likely. And, as the possibility of La Niña’s extreme, yet opposing weather conditions loom later this year, we must be prepared and able to continue our support. Without urgent action from governments and the international community, we will be facing an even more daunting challenge down the road.

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