SOURCE: Lutheran World Relief, Inc.

Lutheran World Relief, Inc.

October 20, 2015 16:47 ET

El Nino Poses Serious Threat to Latin America and the Caribbean

Warm Ocean Temperatures Trigger Drought in Central America and Haiti, Bring Heavy Rainfall and Freeing Temperatures in Peru

BALTIMORE, MD--(Marketwired - October 20, 2015) - Warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures associated with El Niño continue to pose a serious threat to the Latin America and Caribbean region. Less-than-expected rainfall along Central America's Dry Corridor and in Haiti remains an issue of concern, especially for the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.

On a wider scope, projections for South America, particularly Peru, indicate potentially devastating effects of El Niño on the agricultural sector, directly affecting communities in high-risk areas for the coming months. Such impact in Peru, which include heavy rainfalls in the central/northern coast, freezing temperatures in the central highlands and drought in the south of the country is expected to be, if not equal, perhaps worse than the current worst-on-record El Niño occurrence in 1997. Additionally, predictions from official sources such as NOAA's Climate Prediction Center indicate there is a 95% probability that El Niño weather patterns will continue well into the first months of 2016, reaching its maximum intensity between November 2015 and January 2016.

Despite recent rainfall reported in certain areas during the past weeks, thousands of families in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador continue to experience food shortages as a consequence of the ongoing drought. As recently reported by the United Nation's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), 720,000 vulnerable children, women and men in drought-stricken regions of Guatemala are still in need of immediate assistance with acute malnutrition reaching over 700 cases. In Honduras and El Salvador, the latest estimated figures of people still requiring urgent assistance have reached 253,000 and 192,000 respectively.

In the Caribbean, Haiti has been experiencing extreme drought conditions in most departments. Latest government reports indicate that between 300,000 and 560,000 people are in urgent need of food assistance in 37 "communes" or municipalities -- all under IPC Phase 3 (crisis). This food security crisis is due to low agricultural yields, which in turn has caused a sharp rise in food prices.

In South America, below-normal precipitation has brought drought conditions in areas of Venezuela and the north of Colombia where 20 departments have already reported agricultural losses. For the coming months, the reversed effect of above-normal precipitation is highly anticipated for the coastal areas of Ecuador, Peru and eastern lowlands of Bolivia.

LWR -- Actions Taken and Next Steps

Two Lutheran World Relief-funded drought response projects have recently ended in Honduras and Guatemala. Thanks to our strategic local implementing partners in Honduras (Comisión de Acción Social Menonita -- CASM) and Guatemala (Lutheran World Federation -- LWF), these projects directly benefited nearly 5,000 vulnerable individuals whose livelihoods were heavily affected as a result of the drought. Considering the evident needs still present, LWR continues to explore further involvement in the Dry Corridor through potential partnerships and funding opportunities.

In Haiti, LWR is currently formulating a potential assistance intervention in the North-West department, a region where the government has identified between 64,000 - 117,000 children, women and men experiencing IPC Phase 3 (crisis) conditions.

In Peru, LWR is currently monitoring the situation in preparation for any potential needs in the coming months. Information on our local partner's response capacity is also being consolidated in anticipation to possible surge capacity required.

LWR in Latin America and the Caribbean

LWR began working in Central America in 1972, and in the Andean region of South America in the early 1980s. Today, we have projects in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, Colombia, and Peru to advance rural development through programs in agriculture, climate change and response to humanitarian emergencies. LWR collaborates with a diverse set of local partners, other development agencies and private sector entities to respond to emergencies and provide lasting solutions to the problems of poverty, injustice and human suffering.

Lutheran World Relief works to improve the lives of smallholder farmers and people experiencing poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, both in times of emergencies and for the long term. With the financial support of US Lutherans and other donors, LWR strengthens communities through programs in agriculture, climate, and emergency support. LWR works with partners, supporters and technical assistance providers to achieve lasting results. Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of U.S. Lutherans, serving communities living in poverty overseas. For more information, visit lwr.org.

Contact Information

  • Contact information
    John Rivera
    Media Relations Manager
    jrivera@lwr.org
    Office: 410-230-2751
    Cell: 443-604-2918