Several parts of the world are currently experiencing extreme weather conditions- severe drought and warmer than usual temperature with acute water shortage; or unusual heavy rainfall with severe flooding. An estimated 60 million people are affected by these conditions.
These extreme weather conditions have been attributed to the El Nino effect.
The El Nino effect describes warming of the sea surface temperature that occurs every few years, typically concentrated in the central-east equatorial Pacific.
Due to the increase in sea surface temperature, there is a resultant alteration in wind and rainfall patterns across the equatorial pacific. These changes cause extreme weather conditions on either side (Eastern Pacific and Western Pacific) of the phenomenon.
A good explanation of the El Nino effect is provided in a video here:
Health Consequences of El Nino:
- Both droughts and flooding may trigger food insecurity, increase malnutrition and thus enhance vulnerability to infectious diseases;
- Droughts, flooding and intense rainfall (including cyclones) may cause loss of life, significant population displacement, water and vector-borne disease outbreaks and may damage or close health facilities, thus reducing regular health service delivery and restricting access to healthcare during the emergency and well beyond the event;
- El Niño-related warmer temperatures may result in vector-borne disease epidemics in highland areas, which are too cold for vector survival and disease transmission at other times;
- Damaged or flooded sanitation infrastructure may lead to water-borne diseases;
- Extremely hot and dry conditions may lead to heat waves, wildfires, increased smoke and deteriorated air quality, causing or exacerbating respiratory diseases and heat stress;
- Populations already affected by a humanitarian situation (e.g. in internally displaced persons and refugee camps) face heightened risk of suffering health consequences of either wet or dry conditions.
- Globally, natural disasters such as droughts, floods and storms kill more women than men, and tend to kill women at a younger age. These effects also interact with the nature of the event and social status. The gender-gap effects on life expectancy tend to be greater in more severe disasters, and in places where the socioeconomic status of women is particularly low.
Link to WHO’s Fact sheet on El Nino and Health:
Link to WHO’s page on El Nino:
Link to WHO’s page on the El Nino crisis of 2016:
Link to WHO’s Update on El Nino and Health (April 2016):
Link to WHO’s El Nino and Health global Report (21 January 2016):
WHO’s page on Health Preparedness for the El Nino event 2015-16:
Link to WHO’s document ‘Gender, Climate Change and Health’:
Link to WHO Resources on Adaptation in the context of Climate change and human health:
Link to WHO’s Posters on climate change and human health: