UNOCHA, the United Nations humanitarian agency, has released US$10 million to support an emergency response to the desert locust outbreak in East Africa – the worst Kenya has seen since 1950, and the worst for parts of the Horn of Africa in 25 years.
The impacts in affected Red Sea and Horn of Africa nations are adding to existing humanitarian crises, as the locusts wipe out crops in regions hit by climate change, disease, conflict and displacement. The locusts can travel 150 kilometers and eat their own weight in food each day, with a swarm able to devastate crops for thousands of people.
“This devastating locust outbreak is starting to destroy vegetation across East Africa with alarming speed and ferocity,” said UNOCHA coordinator Mark Lowcock. “If left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to spill over into more countries in East Africa with horrendous consequences.”
In Ethiopia, the locusts have destroyed hundreds of square kilometers of vegetation in the Amhara and Tigray regions, which were already affected by floods earlier this year. Somalia has seen tens of thousands of hectares of land affected in Somaliland, Puntland and Mudug, with mature swarms present near the Kenyan border.
“In Kenya, which was hit by back-to-back droughts and then floods in 2019, the past week has seen a significant and extremely dangerous increase in swarm activity, and eight counties are now affected,” the UN agency said.
Meanwhile, recent weather in East Africa has created conditions that support locust population growth, adding to concerns that more damage will be done.
Image: WEF file