Media CenterCRS Warns El Niño, Climate Crisis Could Worsen Food Insecurity in Global Hunger Hotspots

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Kim Pozniak
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]


BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, July 17, 2023 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the overseas relief and development organization of the U.S. Catholic Church, is sounding the alarm about the mounting threats that developing countries face due to the dual challenges of El Niño and climate change, especially in countries already dealing with catastrophic food insecurity.

Last week, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations agency for weather, announced the start of El Nino, a naturally occurring climate phenomenon that has historically led to a disruption of weather patterns while dramatically increasing global temperatures. El Niño events are associated with increased rainfall in East Africa and severe droughts in Southern Africa, Indonesia, and Central America. This year's El Niño is expected to remain strong through early 2024.

“We cannot ignore the amplified risks and impacts associated with the combined effects of El Niño and climate change on hunger. It’s critical that world leaders act aggressively to prevent untold suffering,” said Sean Callahan, CRS’ president and CEO.

According to the United Nations’ Global Report on Food Crises, more than 250 million people across 58 countries faced acute food insecurity in 2022- the fourth year in a row that the number of people needing food aid had risen. South Sudan, Haiti and Afghanistan were cited as among the countries with food crises of the highest severity.

“We fear that this year’s El Nino could further disrupt food systems, migration patterns, and stability in places already dealing with massive hunger,” said Shaun Ferris, CRS’ senior technical advisor for agriculture, livelihoods, and markets in East Africa. “The El Nino and La Nina events are like massive fans blowing across the steadily heating oceans, disrupting weather patterns in places where even the slightest change can spell disaster for those living off the land.”

In 2019, Pope Francis declared a global “climate emergency,” warning of the dangers of global heating and that a failure to act urgently to reduce greenhouse gases would be “a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations.” He said, “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.”

CRS and its local partners are strengthening communities’ ability to adapt to climate change while calling on Congress and the administration to drastically increase funding for climate change adaptation programming as part of the federal budget. According to the United Nations, international finance for adaptation, at just over $20 billion a year, is far below what developing countries are estimated to need.

“El Nino puts an exclamation point on the need for more climate change adaptation funding,” Callahan said. “Last year, a third of Pakistan was under water. This year, heat waves in India are turning cities like New Delhi into an oven. Without urgent, collective action and substantial investment in adaptation and resilience, these climate phenomena will continue to disproportionately burden those least able to bear their devastating impacts."

Learn more about CRS’ climate change campaign and policy recommendations.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance, and peacebuilding. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Kim Pozniak

Director of Communications

Kim Pozniak
July 17, 2023

Based in Baltimore, MD

As the Director of Communications, Kim oversees the communications and social media teams working with journalists and the media to connect them with engaging stories about relief and development programs that are making a tangible difference in people’s lives around the world.

Her previous work at CRS includes handling emergency...More