El Niño upsets seasons and upends lives globally
In rural villages in Africa and Asia, and in urban neighbourhoods in South America, millions of lives have been disrupted by weather linked to the strongest El Niño in a generation.
In some parts of the world, the problem has been not enough rain; in others, too much. Downpours were so bad in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción, that shantytowns sprouted along city streets, filled with families displaced by floods. But farmers in India had the opposite problem: reduced monsoon rains forced them off the land and into day-labour jobs.
In South Africa, a drought hit farmers so hard that the country, which a few years ago was exporting corn to Asian markets, now will have to buy millions of tonnes of it from Brazil and other South American countries.
“They will actually have to import it, which is rare,” said Rogerio Bonifacio, a climate analyst with the World Food Programme, a UN agency. “This is a major drought.”
The World Health Organization has estimated that worldwide, El Niño-related weather is putting 60 million people at increased risk of malnutrition, water- and mosquito-borne diseases and other illnesses.