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Desert locusts could worsen food insecurity in East and Horn of Africa


The East and Horn of Africa region is currently facing one of the worst infestations of desert locusts - whose destructive impact is likely to cause large-scale crop damage and worsen food insecurity in countries already affected by recurrent drought, conflict and high food prices. Desert locust swarms first invaded the Horn of Africa at the end of June 2019 when spring-bred swarms arrived from Yemen in northeast Ethiopia and northern Somalia. Unusually favourable weather conditions have allowed desert locusts to continue to breed and spread, despite control operations.

Based on the current and projected analyses by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), more than 10 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, who are already facing severe food insecurity in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, are located in areas currently affected by the desert locust infestations. A further 3.24 million severely food insecure people in Uganda and South Sudan, are also under threat, bringing the total number of the population at risk to over 13 million. Key drivers including: two consecutive failed rainy seasons, drought, torrential rains, flooding, ongoing conflict, and economic shocks, have left millions of people severely food insecure in this region. Experts say swarms could swell further in Somalia and Ethiopia.

This threat will be further exacerbated by the breeding of new locusts in the region that has already commenced. Experts fear that by June 2020 swarms could swell, placing 3.24 million already food insecure people in South Sudan and Uganda at further risk if more action to control the infestation and mitigate its damage is not taken. With partners in the region conducting assessments, the impact of the desert locust on the long rains cropping seasons and pasture conditions in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya will be clearer in the subsequent IPC analyses.

IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase Classification and Desert Locust Infestation | As of 12 February 2020

Source: The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and FAO

roll over to see infestation of desert locusts

Desert Locusts Timeline

Since the 1950s, countries in the East and Horn of Africa region have experienced major desert locust plagues. Major infestations were recorded in 1958, 1986, 1992, 1995 and in 2019. The significant crop loss caused by swarming desert locusts exacerbates problems of food shortage, and is a threat to food security in a region faced with conflict, drought and floods. In the current upsurge, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have experienced enormous swarms of desert locusts in the worst infestation in 70 years for Kenya, and in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia.

Between 1958 and 1959, heavy swarms of desert locusts infested parts of northern Ethiopia prompting regional and international action
In 1986, numerous swarms invaded the Sahel from Mauritania to Sudan, northern Ethiopia and Eritrea where summer breeding caused more swarms to form and damage crops
A pronounced desert locust outbreak began in late 1992 along the Red Sea coastal plains of Sudan and Eritrea following several years of drought
In 1995, swarms of desert locusts were reported along the Red Sea coastal plain and infested parts of Sudan and Somalia
In 2007, spring-bred swarms from Yemen invaded Kenya’s arid northeastern region
The worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years has caused significant pasture losses across East Africa, mainly in agro-pastoral areas of eastern Ethiopia, central Eritrea, Djibouti Somalia and northern Kenya
Source: FAO Locust Watch

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