Climate change and El Niño have left 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Central America’s “Dry Corridor,” according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
El Niño warms the Pacific Ocean’s surface, creating a hotter and drier environment. The effects of El Niño have only been exasperated by climate change, which causes longer dry spells and more frequent flooding.
While the changing environment presents detrimental challenges to those living in the Dry Corridor, the pre-existing states of poverty and hunger contribute to the problem. Out of the 10.5 million people living in the Dry Corridor, 60 percent are living in poverty, according to IFAD.
Small-scale farmers and rural areas are the first to feel the effects of the drought. With the decrease in crop production comes the risks of reduced dietary diversity, increased hunger among the poor, as well as a rise in malnutrition. There has been a 50 to 90 percent loss of crop harvests and 1.6 million people are food insecure, said FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.
The United Nations held a meeting on June 30 at the Rome FAO headquarters to discuss the drought in Central America. Various U.N. organizations are training farmers to adapt to climate change and strengthen their food security. Farmers need support planting trees, creating more efficient irrigation systems, advancing rainwater harvesting and growing drought-resistant crops over shorter periods.
FAO is implementing risk prevention methods to help combat the impact of the drought. They are creating early disaster warning systems and assisting national and local abilities in risk management. FAO is also aiding farmers with agricultural rehabilitation and providing seeds for drought-resistant crops.
IFAD is training farmers in El Salvador to improve soil water conservation while helping them to build water-collecting structures. In addition, they are providing communities with the tools to improve basic household functions, like energy efficient stoves and low flow latrines.
The World Food Program (WFP) is distributing Super Cereal Plus to suffering communities in Honduras. The food supplement is enriched with nutrients and vitamins, to help children under five who are in danger of malnutrition. WFP is also giving aid to 600,000 families that are struggling with hunger until the end of August 2016.
Despite these efforts, there is currently a $17 million funding gap in humanitarian aid for countries in the Dry Corridor, according to FAO. An urgent response by the international community is necessary to continue to help small-scale farmers and people living in poverty survive the effects of El Niño and climate change.
– Erica Rawles