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Warning On El Niño In Asia-Pacific, Advocate For Better Prediction And Management Of Climate-Induced Displacement

FAO and IOM Issue Warning on El Niño in Asia-Pacific, Advocate for
Better Prediction and Management of Climate-Induced Displacement

Bangkok – The region braces itself as El Niño, the notorious climate phenomenon marked by Pacific Ocean surface temperature rise, makes its presence felt. Asia-Pacific countries now could face the consequential impacts, including erratic weather patterns such as prolonged droughts, unpredictable rainfall, and extreme events like cyclones and floods. But it's not just the weather that's alarming.

Disasters in the past decade have caused a staggering number of 225 million internal displacements in Asia and the Pacific, accounting for 78 percent of the global total. Typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions emerged as primary drivers, leading to 22.6 million new displacements in 2022 alone, comprising nearly 70 percent of the global disaster displacement count.

Among the sectors affected, agriculture bears a substantial burden, accounting for a quarter of the overall disaster damage and loss. Particularly, the sector faces a remarkable impact of droughts, absorbing up to 83 percent of all economic consequences caused by these events.

Communities heavily reliant on agriculture bear the brunt of these weather disturbances. " Prolonged droughts can trigger crop failures, food scarcity, and economic instability, forcing people to abandon their homes in search of better conditions. Similarly, intense rainfall and flooding wreak havoc on infrastructure and livelihoods and threaten food security, exacerbating the already complex migration patterns in the region," warns FAO's Assistant Director General and Regional Representative, Jong-Jin Kim.

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In response to the looming threats, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) together raise the alarm about the potential impact of El Niño on displacement trends across the Asia-Pacific region this year, as well as increasing likelihood of climate-induced displacement in general. With climate change intensifying El Niño events in frequency and severity, the number of displaced individuals could increase, amplifying existing vulnerabilities tied to the economic crisis and residue of the pandemic.

To confront this challenge head-on, FAO and IOM advocate for scaling up anticipatory action as a promising strategy to manage risks of climate-induced displacement in the region, including those associated with this year’s El Niño. The two organizations have launched a new paper “Climate-induced human mobility: How can anticipatory action play a role in Asia and the Pacific?”, proposing a new model to enhance capacities to predict, prevent, and manage climate-induced displacement. This approach emphasizes proactive measures based on early warnings, offering an alternative to conventional disaster management practices.

“As the impact of climate change becomes more pronounced, this trend is projected to escalate significantly in the coming decades. The region consistently witnesses the highest share of global disaster displacement, and, with recent years breaking records, climate hazards and their consequences, including El Niño, need to be managed wisely," emphasizes IOM Regional Director Sarah Lou Ysmael Arriola.

In this context, FAO and IOM collaboratively explore innovative solutions to bridge the gap and integrate a human mobility perspective into anticipatory action. By combining their expertise, they aim to shed light on the intersection of anticipatory action and climate-induced human mobility—a system in dire need of scaling up, especially considering the looming El Niño threat in the short term and intensifying hazards as a result of climate change in the future.

"Both organizations recognize the necessity of proactive measures, and mounting evidence suggests that taking action before an anticipated shock occurs is not only more effective but also swifter and more dignified compared to traditional humanitarian responses. We cannot wait for El Niño-induced conditions to drive more people from their homes and livelihoods," states Catherine Jones, Anticipatory Action Lead for FAO. She emphasizes that anticipatory action links early warnings with pre-emptive measures, safeguarding communities and their assets with a particular focus on internal displacement and climate-induced human mobility.

Despite gaining prominence in the disaster risk management toolbox, the application of anticipatory action in the context of human mobility remains relatively unexplored, even though there are undeniable linkages between climate hazards, displacement, and climate-induced migration.

"To adequately address the needs of displaced populations and the communities hosting them in the era of climate change, it is crucial to establish systems capable of understanding and predicting climate hazards, anticipating disaster-induced displacement and migration, comprehending its implications for vulnerable populations, and, ultimately, supporting governments and at risk populations in preventing future displacement and better managing the consequences of those who have already moved," asserts Bradley Mellicker, Senior Regional Emergency and Post-Crisis Specialist with IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Through their collaborative efforts, both UN agencies are committed to advancing the integration of human mobility considerations within anticipatory action, ensuring a comprehensive and inclusive approach to disaster risk management.

This crucial step toward building resilience, fostering sustainable solutions, and safeguarding the well-being of climate-induced human mobility-affected communities in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond reflects the significance of joint efforts by FAO and IOM.

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