Tens of millions of people across Asia, the Caribbean and Africa are expected to begin suffering the effects of El Niño – mainly drought and floods – in the next six months with extreme hunger, various aid agencies warned Wednesday, as tests from U.S. space agency NASA revealed that the world may see a repeat of the 1998 El Niño, the worst on record.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lap released a photo Tuesday that showed the ocean warming based on data from its Jason-2 satellite. The patterns bare a "striking resemblance" to images from December 1997, NASA says.
The effects caused by the 1998 El Niño claimed at least 900 lives around the world and caused over US$20 billion in damages.
Aid agency Oxfam has warned that the weather condition could lead to hunger, drought and disease to tens of millions of people in developing countries across the world and have called the situation “serious and deteriorating.”
A spokesperson for Oxfam said: “The effects of a super El Niño are set to put the world’s humanitarian system under an unprecedented level of strain in 2016 as it already struggles to cope with the fallout from conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere."
Oxfam said that it is “already too late for some regions to avoid a major emergency” and that food shortages are likely to peak in Southern Africa in February, with Malawi estimating that almost 3 million people will require humanitarian assistance before March.
The El Niño weather system is a natural phenomenon which occurs every seven to eight years and peaks late in the calendar year although effects can persist well into the following spring.
The phenomenon causes temperatures to rise during disturbing weather patterns and has been blamed for the floods that battered South America earlier this month.
Devastating floods hit Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina in December and have now displaced as many as 160,000 people across four South American nations. At least 10 people have been killed across the region.
In Paraguay alone, emergency efforts are expected to cost as much as US$3.5 million, according to President Horacio Cartes.
Floods are expected across Central America in January.
VIDEO: South American Floods Displace 180,000