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Last Updated on April 16, 2020

Locust Invasion Creates Food Crisis For 1 Million Ethiopians

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The United Nations has said that at least one million people in Ethiopia require emergency food aid after swarms of desert locusts damaged 200,000 hectares (half a million acres) of cropland in a region already struggling with food security.

The announcement on Monday from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which recently concluded a joint assessment with the Ethiopian government, came as parts of East Africa are bracing for new swarms that could be even more devastating.

Billions of desert locusts, some in swarms the size of Moscow, have already chomped their way through much of the region, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.

Their breeding has been spurred by one of the wettest rainy seasons in the region in decades. In Ethiopia, the locusts have caused widespread losses of sorghum, wheat and maize, also known as corn. The locust swarms have vastly reduced the amount of available land for cattle grazing, FAO said.

Of the one million individuals requiring emergency food assistance, some 75 percent live in the country’s Somali and Oromia regions.

According to the Fao, about 8.5 million people in Ethiopia are already in severe acute food insecurity and in need of humanitarian assistance.

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Furthermore, in the six East African countries worst affected or at risk of locusts – Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania – some 20 million people are already experiencing acute food insecurity.

Fatouma Seid, FAO Ethiopia representative, said farmers and pastoralists in the country, needed help in the form of agricultural inputs and cash transfers to get them through the emergency. An emergency which is being worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus Affecting Response to Locust Invasion Damage

“It is critical to protect the livelihoods of the affected especially now that the situation is compounded by the pandemic,” Seid said.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country with 110 million people, has recorded just 74 cases of COVID-19 including three deaths. Testing, however, has been limited and experts fear the country’s weak health system, like others in the region, could be quickly overwhelmed by an influx of cases.

The pandemic is also having a crippling economic effect in many countries. It is destroying jobs, dislocating trade systems and crimping supply lines through lockdowns and movement restrictions.

The locust situation, meanwhile, is likely to worsen. FAO warned of a massive increase in locusts across the region that would pose more threat to food security and livelihoods by imperilling the upcoming planting and harvest seasons.

At the same time, coronavirus-linked flight restrictions have hampered efforts to wipe out the swarms by causing delays in the delivery of pesticides.

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