El Niño - 26.5 Million Children at Risk across Eastern and Southern Africa

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Save the Children Calls for Critical Support for the SADC Regional Humanitarian Appeal

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FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 27, 2016) — As a result of one the strongest and most destructive El Niño phenomena ever recorded, the lives of 26.5 million children are now at risk of high levels of malnutrition, water shortages, and disease across ten countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

"While the strength of El Niño is set to decrease over the first part of 2016, its full force will be felt over the coming months; harvests will continue to fail; families will run out of essentials as their livelihoods dry up or are washed away; and children forced from their homes will leave healthcare, security and loved ones behind," warns Save the Children’s East and Southern Africa Regional Director, David Wright.

An emergency regional El Niño appeal has been launched by The South African Development Community (SADC) today and is designed to raise much-needed funds for the millions of people hit by drought and extreme weather conditions.

The appeal launch also coincides with the Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s (RIASCO) formal El Niño response action plan that deals with immediate humanitarian needs as well as building the long-term resilience of affected communities to handle future climate shocks.

"Southern Africa governments and partners have proactively responded to the El Niño phenomena since 2015 but it is now evident that the sheer scale of the crisis far outstrips the coping capacities of communities and the resources of governments, putting decades of development gains at risk," says Wright.

"The launch of the regional humanitarian appeal today is a strong indication that donors, national governments and the humanitarian community must act much faster to save lives of children and families. All of us must do much more, as quickly as possible."

The high probability of a La Niña event from late 2016, usually defined by heavy, unpredictable rainfall and colder weather, will likely lead to further extreme weather conditions with potentially disastrous consequences including agricultural and crop reductions or destruction, disease outbreaks, and extreme flooding.

"The onset of La Niña could exacerbate the negative impacts of El Niño and stretch affected communities to their absolute limits. Proactive and early action measures need to be put in place to prepare and protect communities alongside the urgent need for humanitarian assistance now," says Wright.

"Water shortages remain a key concern. Many health facilities and schools are in critical need of improved water supply and sanitation facilities to enable the continuity of services. Children face protection risks as families and communities move in search of work, food, water and grazing land for animals.

"Children are also finding it difficult to stay in school, due to hunger or lack of water. Being the global epicenter of the AIDS pandemic, the El Niño crisis is making life even more precarious for children affected by HIV."

Save the Children urgently calls on donors and Southern African governments to swiftly, collaboratively and generously respond to SADCs regional humanitarian appeal to contain the crisis that is likely to continue into 2017, and to ensure that vulnerable people can access relief.

"It is vital that donors, national governments and humanitarian agencies work together to bring life-saving support to the urgent needs of children and women and ensure that the significant development progress that has been achieved for children over the last few decades is not reversed by the effects of El Niño," adds Wright.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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