UNICEF has reported that although the 2015-2016 El Niño has ended, its devastating impact on children is worsening.
Hunger, malnutrition and disease continue to increase following the severe droughts and floods spawned by the event, one of the strongest on record.
Unicef said in a report called it’s not over – el Niño’s impact on children that there is a strong chance la Niña – el Niño’s flip side – could strike at some stage this year, further exacerbating a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting millions of children in some of the most vulnerable communities.
Children in the worst EL Nino affected areas are going hungry.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, some 26.5 million children need support, including more than one million who need treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
In many countries, already strained resources, have reached their limits.
Affected families have exhausted their coping mechanisms – such as selling off assets and skipping meals.
UNICEF says in a report that unless more aid is forthcoming, including urgent nutritional support for young children, decades of development progress could be eroded.
In many countries, El Niño affected access to safe water, and has been linked to increases in diseases such as dengue fever, diarrhoea and cholera, which are major killers of children.
In South America, and particularly Brazil, El Niño has created favourable breeding conditions for the mosquito that can transmit Zika, Dengue, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya.
If La Niña does develop, it could contribute to the spread of the Zika virus to areas that have not been affected to date.
UNICEF also said there areserious concerns that Southern Africa, the global epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, could see an increased transmission of HIV as a result of El Niño’s impact.
Lack of food affects access to anti-retroviral therapy, as patients tend not to take treatment on an empty stomach, and many people will use their limited resources for food rather than transport to a health facility.
Drought can also force adolescent girls and women to engage in transactional sex to survive.
And, mortality for children living with HIV is two to six times higher for those who are severely malnourished than for those who are not.