Unpredictable weather patterns are affecting as many as 4.7 million people in the Pacific. Papua New Guinea and Fiji currently face extreme hunger, poverty, and disease due to El Niño’s alternating patterns of drought, flooding, and frost.
El Niño is a periodic warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean which occurs every two to seven years, creating extreme weather conditions in several regions of the world. Once an El Niño event begins, it can last from six months to two years. One of the strongest El Niño periods occurred between 1997 and 1998, causing up to $US 96 billion of damage worldwide. The current El Niño rivals that of the 1997-1998 event, adding weight to volatile and erratic weather patterns in the Pacific.
In Papua New Guinea and Fiji, El Nino has exacerbated drought conditions, affecting 2.4 million and 30,000 people respectively. This has made it difficult for populations to access water. Fiji has already overspent its water delivery budget by a third, and in Papua New Guinea only 40% of the population have access to safe drinking water. Children are adversely affected with schools closing due to a lack of water, children unable to attend school due to pressure to collect food and water, and disease risks from dirty water sources. El Nino also commonly results in the increase of water-borne illnesses like diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid as well as malaria and dengue fever, affecting children the most.