El Niño in 2023-2024, its humanitarian and economic impact, and what businesses can do and are doing about it
What is El Niño
El Niño is a phenomenon whereby the warming of the eastern and central parts of the Pacific Ocean interacts with the atmosphere can cause an increased risk of flooding, variable rainfall patterns, dry conditions which can lead to severe drought, and the potential for more intense tropical cyclones.
Based on previous occurrences, the impacts of El Niño are historically associated with the following:
Food shortages and insecurity due to lower crop production and yields in certain regions
Water scarcity and stress on water resources
Increased risk of wildfires due to dry vegetation areas such as in Indonesia and Australia
Changes in ocean temperatures and conditions which can lead to coral bleaching and lower fish populations
Higher incidences of vector-borne diseases (i.e., diseases transmitted by mosquitoes) such as dengue fever
Predictions for the 2023-2024 El Niño phenomenon
According to the latest update from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), there is a 90% probability of El Niño continuing through the upcoming Northern Hemisphere winter, with conditions reaching what corresponds to a “strong” El Niño. That means that at least until end of 2023 if not through to the first quarter of 2024, we can expect widespread effects on weather patterns through much of the tropics and beyond.
For the 2023-2024 El Niño phenomenon, the current forecasts and updates have been shared by the United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA):
How is the private sector preparing for and responding to El Niño?
Part of business operations includes risk management and contingency planning to ensure a continuity of operations. As such, companies of all sizes will be affected by El Niño. While every organization must find what works best for them, some examples of what the private sector is doing to prepare for a respond to El Niño on a sector, community, or national level:
The Ecuadorian Chamber of Industry and Production (CIP), a CBi Member Network organized a series of webinars with UNDP Ecuador to raise awareness amidst their members about what El Niño is, what to expect, and what to do to prepare. A session on business continuity and El Niño preparedness is planned for the members of CIP before the end of the year.
In Papua New Guinea, UNDP, in partnership with Digicel, a member company of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry, conducted a nationwide survey to understand the impacts of El Niño on communities and livelihoods. The results will be used to inform their El Niño response plan.
In Peru, CBi Member Network Hombro a Hombro responded to flooding earlier this year caused by the coastal El Niño and a historical occurrence of dengue fever as a result. They are also preparing for the global El Niño by supporting the Government with logistics, training of municipalities and the provision heavy machinery. Read more here.
The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), conducted a virtual briefing on El Niño with its member companies and partners to discuss how the private sector can prepare and mitigate the potential impacts of El Niño and ensure water security. Attended by over 240 representatives from various organizations in the water sector such as Maynilad and Manila Water, government agencies, the UN and other partners, the briefing aimed to facilitate a discussion on how to enhance public and private sector coordination. The network also launched a dashboard for sharing vital information, fostering collaboration, and amplifying private sector efforts to mitigate the impact of El Niño.
CBi encourages its partners to align with the “Early Warnings For All” initiative by the United Nations and to develop protocols for early or anticipatory action. For more information on these approaches, see other resources listed below.