El Nino drought leaves millions hungry and in need of drinking water in Vietnam

By Reuters   June 20, 2016 | 07:12 pm PT
An El Niño-induced drought in Vietnam has left one million people in urgent need of food assistance and two million people lacking access to drinking water, Europe’s humanitarian aid agency said.

The country’s worst drought in 90 years coupled with seawater intrusion into the Mekong River delta have destroyed fruit, rice and sugar crops in the world’s third-largest rice exporter after India and Thailand.

“The disruption in precipitation patterns has affected the livelihoods, food security and access to safe water of the people of Vietnam,” Christos Stylianides, EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, said in a statement.

El Nino is an abnormal warming of waters in the equatorial Pacific that occurs once every three to four years.

A strong El Nino would normally cause drought in wide swathes of Southeast Asia, with Indonesia and the Philippines bearing the brunt of the drought. The 2015/16 El NIno is the worst since the 1997/98 edition, which just happens to be the worst Nino in recorded history.


A farmer burns his dried-up rice on a paddy field struck by drought in Soc Trang Province. Photo by Reuters/Kham

The EU’s humanitarian arm ECHO said it would provide €2 million (US$2.3 million) in funding for emergency relief.

“This EU contribution will help provide life-saving assistance to affected families at this critical time, ensuring that their basic needs are met,” Stylianides said.

Saltwater has encroached up the Mekong Delta up to 25 kms further than average years, the ECHO statement said.

“Although the government had taken preparedness measures and launched some initiatives in anticipation, the scale of the current disaster has become much worse than initially foreseen, surpassing the local capacity to respond,” the statement said.

Weather forecasters have warned of the possibility of a La Nina weather event, the opposite of El Nino, which could bring intense monsoon rains to Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia in the second half of 2016.

Aside from rice, Vietnam is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world.

Related news:

El Nino behind historic drought in Mekong Delta ends, La Nina to follow

Vietnam asks ADB for financial support in fighting drought and salinity

Historic drought costs Vietnam $670 million

go to top