Health and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

The joint World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Climate and Health Office has issued a briefing paper about health and the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) as part of a wider WHO effort to review the current health risks and responses of the El Nino event in high risk countries. The ongoing El Niño event is one of the three strongest since 1950 and is the strongest since 1997-1998, according to WMO. It is contributing to extreme weather patterns around the world and combined with long-term climate change to fuel record global surface temperatures in 2015. The 2015-2016 El Niño, through the associated weather and climate extremes including droughts and floods, is currently affecting the health of millions of people. The health consequences of El Niño will be felt even after the climatic peak of the event and are likely to last throughout the year. WHO estimates the health of 60 million people may be impacted by weather and climate anomalies associated with El Niño this year, generating costly burdens on health systems. Local incidence of vector-borne and waterborne diseases, wildfire smoke exposure, and flood- and drought-related health and nutritional impacts, are climate and weather sensitive and have all been observed to be influenced by factors associated with ENSO events, according to the WHO-WMO brief.

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