Whether it’s bringing too much rain or none at all, El Niño often marks unusual weather. But this year’s El Niño was more than unusual.

It’s over now, but the impacts of the latest El Niño cycle were so severe they’ll stay with communities for years: fuelling the highest global temperatures in more than 130 years, forcing thousands to flee their scorched or flooded lands, causing major crop losses, impacting water supplies and leaving millions food insecure.

Take a look at the impact across some of the worst affected countries.


1.4 million people in Angola - over half of them children - are affected by El Niño induced drought. As food becomes desperately scarce, parents are struggling to give their children enough nutritious meals, leaving almost 96,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

It’s a dangerous time for young children like Marcelino. He almost didn’t make his first birthday. Months of drought worsened by El Niño robbed his family of their food supply and left him wasting away with severe malnutrition.

“He got so sick,” says his mother Ndahalouan. “I thought he was going to die.”

If she hadn’t brought him to their local health clinic in southern Angola, he might have. But after days of treatment with therapeutic milk, Marcelino began to put on weight.
Marcelino’s condition is improving, thanks to his tireless mother and lifesaving support and supplies from his local health clinic. © UNICEF/UN023902/Clark
Now, the pair is headed home with hands full of Plumpy’Nut, a peanut paste which helps children recover from severe malnutrition even when they’re not at the clinic. In 2016, UNICEF is working to reach 37,835 children like Marcelino with the therapeutic treatment they need to recover from severe acute malnutrition.

“I’m so happy to be bringing him home,” says the smiling mother. “I have my boy back.”



Malawi is running out of food. 2.8 million people in Malawi, including 1.5 million children, are at risk. With household food stocks running dry, food prices rising and almost a quarter of communities using unsafe water sources, El Niño has put the health of Malawi’s most vulnerable people is at risk.

This land, now dry and barren, once grew enough for this single mother to care for her children. © UNICEF/UN024069/Rich

Alinafe’s field is so dry and barren it’s hard to imagine how anything ever grew in it. But this single mother once grew enough here to take care of her four children by herself. Now, the family’s daily meal is a handful of dried peas called “nandoko” or “pigeon peas”.

It’s not enough for Alinafe’s youngest child. Two year-old Desire has been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, and her mother depends on a therapeutic nutrition supplement supplied by UNICEF to her local hospital to keep her alive.

Desire is not alone. Half of all children under five in Malawi are showing signs of undernutrition. If they don't get the essential nutrients they need in this critical stage of development, they could be left stunted and feel the effects for the rest of their lives. That’s why UNICEF is working to reach 453,500 young children like Desire with micronutrients to help them reach five and beyond without the impacts of undernutrition.


Ethiopia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. River beds are drying up, livestock are perishing and crops are being burnt to a crisp. It’s a deadly combination and a daily reality for those living through the intense drought brought on by El Niño.

Families are travelling extreme distances to reach water. Often, when they reach it, it’s not safe to drink. Children drink water from the same trough as their animals, risking acute diarrhoea - but with no other water sources, they just don’t have any other option.

15 year-old Wogbela is one of 6 million children feeling the impact of El Niño induced drought every day. After school, he travels for hours to collect water.

“I used to go every other day, but the drought has dried up the ponds here, so I have to get water for the livestock in addition to water for the family,” he says. It's so far that he has to stay overnight with a relative and return home the next day. Wogbela is always tired but has to rush to class.

“I am late to school every day,” he says, worried.

Wogbela walks an incredible distance each day just to collect clean water for his family. © UNICEF/UN022142/Ayene

UNICEF is working to give 2.2 million people in Ethiopia access to safe drinking water and for children like Wogbela, it cannot come soon enough. “I hope things change soon,” says Wogbela, “so that I can get back to learning.”

Nebila is suffering from severe acute malnutrition Nebila is suffering from severe acute malnutrition
Nebila is suffering from severe acute malnutrition

You can make a lasting impact for vulnerable children

Whether they're living through East and Southern Africa's worst food crisis or rebuilding their lives from Cyclone Winston in Fiji, children rely on UNICEF supporters for lifesaving support and protection.

Your small, regular gift means that we can:

  • Be on the ground as soon as an earthquake or cyclone hits, delivering urgent food, water and medicine
  • Reach children in the world's most complex conflicts with safe spaces to play, learn and grow
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The threat of a silent nutritional emergency looms over Zimbabwe. Without enough food and clean water, families are exhausting their last options to keep children fed.
Ripisai Manonge stands in the empty enclosure that once housed all her cattle. © UNICEF/UN019013

80 year-old Ripisai Manonge just sold her last cattle. With her community in the grip of an El Niño induced drought that has cut crop yields and killed livestock, it was the only way to keep her grandchildren in class.

Ripisai is not new to hardship. One of her grandchildren is HIV positive, and paying for drugs is an additional cost for the family. But she’s among 2.8 million people in Zimbabwe running out of options: skipping meals, selling assets and losing the security they’ve spent years building up just to put food on the table.

UNICEF is helping families like Ripisai’s recover from El Niño. In 2016, we’ll reach 240,051 children with crucial nutritional supplements and keep 150,000 children in school.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

In times of drought, deadly but preventable diseases can grip a nation. Food shortages and a lack of clean water mean that illnesses like diarrhoea risk the lives of children in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea every day.

For young children, the impact is clear: there has been a 72% increase in diarrhoea in children under five. UNICEF is working with partners to reach 1 million people with treated drinking water and safe storage options to stop the spread of preventable but deadly diseases.


Two cyclones devastated access to crucial water and sanitation resources in Fiji in 2016. El Niño’s part in reducing fresh water supplies was an unwelcome addition to the massive crop losses, interrupted water supplies and outbreak of waterborne diseases already plaguing Fiji.
Seven year-old Grace was one of thousands of children left without safe water when Cyclone Winston tore through her village.
© UNICEF/UN012117/Sokhin

“After the cyclone our village was flooded. Water went inside the houses, all my thing were wet. We couldn’t play in the river, because all the rubbish was floating, parts of tin roof, people’s things, fallen trees.”

“For two days we didn’t have water to drink, so we were drinking rainwater from the pieces of tin roofs.”

Many still desperately need clean water, and UNICEF is helping to provide it. Alongside our partners in Fiji we have reached almost 200,000 people with the safe water they need for drinking, sanitation and everyday life.

Be there for children, wherever they are

El Niño has come to an end but children in the worst affected areas are still going hungry today. Our teams and resources are stretched to the limit in East and Southern Africa and across the world as we deliver for children in crisis and poverty. 

We need you: can you make a monthly gift to bring urgent therapeutic food to help children like Marcelino, Desire and Wogbela recover from malnutrition? By signing up to give monthly, you'll join our Global Parents to make a profound impact for children. Every month, they work towards a world where children in crisis and poverty have a chance to grow up safe and healthy.

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