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East and Horn of Africa Food Insecurity in the context of Desert Locusts and COVID-19


The East and Horn of Africa region is already home to some of the most food insecure populations in the world. Now, with countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia currently facing one of the worst desert locust infestations in decades, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19, experts fear that the health crisis transforms into a food crisis unless global, regional and country level coordinated action is in place to control the economic crisis. The East Africa region’s six infested countries host 25.3 million people facing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+), which is 28% of the case-load of Africa. In addition, five of the Desert Locust affected countries have 35 million people in Stress (IPC Phase 2). These people do not have resilience for further disruption of their livelihoods, such as lack of economic and physical access to food due to COVID-19 containment measures.

Based on the current and projected Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analyses, more than 11 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, who are already facing high acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+), are located in areas currently affected by the desert locust infestations. A further 2.76 million people in South Sudan and 120,000 people in Uganda facing high levels of acute food insecurity are also under threat, bringing the total number of the population at risk to nearly 14 million. Key drivers including several consecutive failed rainy seasons, drought, torrential rains, flooding, disease outbreak (rift valley fever in Kenya and Uganda in 2018), ongoing conflict, and economic shocks, have already left millions of people highly food insecure in this region. Experts say the second wave of desert locust swarms could swell further in this region, causing major damage to staple crops and rangelands.

IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase Classification and Desert Locust Infestation | As of 19 May 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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