Oxfam welcomes aid to the pacific as El Nino impacts threaten humanitarian crisis

Media Releases article written on the 08 Nov 2015

Oxfam welcomes today’s announcement of a $9 million Australian Government aid package to Pacific Nations threatened by El Niño caused droughts.

The funding is critical to reduce the risk of major humanitarian crises in the coming months as the affects of one of the most powerful El Nino events ever recorded are felt by millions of already vulnerable people throughout the region.

Oxfam said the El Niño phenomenon had already contributed to droughts, erratic rains and frosts affecting as many as 4.6 million people in the Pacific, including 2.4 million people in Papua New Guinea.

The El Niño will continue to grow in strength over the next few months, leading to even more severe drought, particularly in the western Pacific, and increased risk of severe cyclones, particularly for countries in the eastern Pacific such as the Cook Islands and Samoa.

Oxfam’s Humanitarian Advocacy Coordinator Ben Murphy said that the funding is a welcome start, as a number of Pacific governments and humanitarian agencies, including Oxfam, had commenced preparedness activities in response to the current El Niño.

However, with many Pacific communities already vulnerable from the impacts of climate change, this funding is desperately needed to avoid a repeat of the crises that followed the last major El Niño event of 1997-98.

“The coming months will severely test the resilience of Pacific Islands Countries, some who are still vulnerable and recovering from recent tropical cyclones,’ Mr Murphy said.

Mr Murphy said the impacts of the powerful El Niño, combined with ongoing high temperatures and vulnerabilities in communities due to climate change were pushing the world into unchartered waters.

Worryingly, recent research suggests that particularly strong El Niño events may occur twice as often as in the past as a result of climate change.

The $9 million, of which $4 million will be shared among NGOs, is a timely step towards addressing the immediate needs of the region, however as the El Nino intensives, vulnerable countries will need further, long term support.

Oxfam is preparing in anticipation of El Nino impacts, including drought and stronger tropical cyclones. This includes assessing current conditions in drought-affected areas and the needs of communities, as well as working with other agencies on plans to help the most vulnerable prepare for the time ahead.

For interviews or more information, please contact Roslyn Boatman on +61 409 549 049 or roslynb@oxfam.org.au