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Global Health
January 19, 2016

El Niño to Adversely Affect Children’s Health

JAMA. 2016;315(3):242. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.17591

A strong El Niño weather pattern is putting millions of children at risk from hunger, disease, and lack of water, according to a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) titled “A Wake-Up Call: El Niño’s Impact on Children” (http://uni.cf/1liy8Gc).

El Niño is a climate pattern linked to warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean and can have substantial effects on weather patterns around the world. This most recent El Niño event, which began causing floods and droughts in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific in 2015, is developing into one of the worst ever recorded. Children are disproportionately affected by natural disasters triggered by El Niño. Aside from the immediate danger of death and injury from these weather effects, children are also at risk of increased undernutrition, as well as climate-sensitive diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, cholera, and diarrhea.

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