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UNEP project to commence on El Niño Southern oscillation

Nairobi, 21 May 1999 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has received funding of US$650,000 from the United Nations Fund for International Partnership (Turner Foundation), in support of a project aimed at improving the early warning and preparedness for ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) events. El Niño Southern Oscillation is a seasonal change in weather conditions resulting in drought, flood or severe storm events that are often of great severity and unseasonal to the location in which they occur.

The United Nations General Assembly, recognizing the seriousness of El Niño and its impacts, called for action by Governments and United Nations agencies to address the issue. Consistent with the United Nations System-wide Strategy on El Niño, UNEP, in cooperation with partners such as the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the United States, United Nations University (UNU), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the Secretariat for International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), developed a project proposal to contribute towards enhancing the early warning and preparedness for future ENSO events and their adverse impacts, thus, ultimately improving the safety and welfare of people and the environment.

"The world must improve its preparedness for El Niño and La Niña and their impacts. We must avoid huge losses such as those suffered through the Indonesian fires which raged on for months, floods in China and hurricane Mitch that devastated Honduras", said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP. "We want to ensure that our efforts contribute to building capacity at the national and regional levels for sound planning for preventing and mitigating the negative impacts, particularly by vulnerable sectors of society", he said.

The preliminary list of countries covered by the project to carry our national reviews are Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Viet Nam. Through separate funding, similar work will be carried out in China and Panama, in collaboration with this project. The experts in these countries will form an El Niño network under the project exchange information and work together. The preliminary guidelines on ENSO preparedness to be developed based on the experiences of these countries can then be applied in other countries in future follow-up projects.

For more information, please contact:
Alex Alusa,
Atmosphere Programme,
Nairobi, Kenya;
Tel.: (254-2) 623455, Fax 623410,
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of the Communications and Public Information Branch,
Tel.: (254-2) 623292, Fax 623692,

Saturday 22 May 1999
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