El Nino

CARE Mozambique asked people in El Niño affected areas what the current drought means for them and their lives. This is what one woman said.

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In 2016, the most powerful El Niño on record caused the worst drought for decades and successive failed harvests in parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

The crisis in brief

El Niño is the name given to a global weather phenomenon caused by changes in the temperature of sea water. This causes major changes in climate systems, leading to torrential rain causing floods, or lack of rain – or even no rainy season at all – causing drought and the failure of crops and harvests.

El Niño occurs every few years, but the impacts experienced across the world in 2016 were the severest for decades. More than 60 million people faced food and water shortages, rising food prices, higher malnutrition rates, devastated livelihoods, and forced displacement. Following successive failed harvests, food shortages reached critical levels in many countries, and in East Africa contributed to a serious food crisis bringing millions to the brink of starvation.

What we are doing

CARE provided food, water and other emergency relief to people in countries across the world. We helped people to survive the immediate impacts, and to begin to rebuild in the aftermath through livelihoods support such as providing seeds and assistance to begin replanting crops.

In Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe between March 2016 and August 2017, CARE reached 1.6 million people  with life-saving support in the areas of food security, agriculture, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and nutrition.

East Africa


  • More than 10 million people are affected by severe drought
  • CARE is implementing 10 emergency relief and recovery projects in 5 regions
  • We have reached 1.1 million people (as at September 2016) with emergency water, sanitation, hygiene, food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance, including seed distribution and other agricultural inputs so smallholder farmers can begin replanting crops, and cash for work and direct cash transfer so that people can buy what they need to meet their individual needs


  • 2.9 million people urgently need food assistance and 185,000 children are suffering severe acute malnutrition as a result of severe drought
  • CARE has assisted 258,000 people with cash transfers, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and food and nutrition support

Updated February 2017

Southern Africa
  • More than 40 million people are facing food insecurity as a result of widespread damage to crops and livestock caused by severe drought
  • In four countries where CARE is responding – Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – the food insecure population is expected to be more than 13 million during the peak of the lean season between October 2016 and March 2017
  • In Malawi, CARE has reached 307,000 people with emergency food relief and support
  • In Zimbabwe, CARE has supported over half a million people – that's 25 per cent of those in need – with cash and food assistance
  • In Mozambique, the impact of the drought is expected to worsen over the coming months: CARE is working in a consortium with Concern, Oxfam and Save the Children to support 500,000 people. So far CARE has reached nearly 145,000 people with food and livelihoods support, including seeds and tools provision
  • In Madagascar, CARE has reached 31,000 people with food and nutrition support

Updated February 2017



  • El Niño-related water shortages have affected more than 100,000 households in poor communities, while other parts of Cambodia are facing severe flooding
  • CARE has supported 3,960 people with hygiene packages, and is preparing a monsoon contingency plan in anticipation of heavy rains and flooding


  • Severe drought and saltwater intrusion has affected more than 2 million people
  • CARE has supported 4,730 people through hygiene packages and improvement of water supply systems in remote areas

Updated September 2016


Papua New Guinea

  • Crops in the fertile highland valleys have been devastated by severe drought and frosts
  • CARE has reached more than 261,000 people with food, water, hygiene and other relief distributions
  • We are now focusing on recovery activities such as livelihood training, health/nutrition follow-up and improvements to water supply and sanitation


  • CARE has reached more than 14,000 people with water, sanitation and hygiene support
  • We are now supporting longer-term recovery from the impact of El Niño in Tafea province
  • Vanuatu and small island states in the Pacific are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with increasingly intense cyclone seasons, rising sea levels, changes to weather patterns and other stresses

Updated September 2016

Lise Tonelli, CARE Emergency Team Leader, explains the situation in Mozambique (July 2016) and CARE’s response:

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