"In the last few days swarms have crossed from the Kenyan border to these regions wreaking havoc. It is horrific. Fields of crops are being wiped out before people’s eyes."
Irish humanitarian aid agency GOAL, has warned that Ethiopia will be hit with a devastating food crisis unless urgent action is taken to respond to the worst locust infestation to hit the country in 25 years.
Appealing to the donor community and the public to support efforts to halt the infestation to prevent a disaster, GOAL said the escalation of the locust swarms in its areas of operation in the last week has resulted in tons of crops being wiped out, impacting thousands of farmers in need of every gram of good to feed themselves and their families.
The appeal came today as the UN warned that the East African region could be on the verge of a famine if the huge swarms of locusts devouring crops and pasture are not brought under control. Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are affected.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said there are fears that the locusts – already in the hundreds of billions – will multiply further. The insects are breeding so fast that numbers could grow 500 times by June. The UN body has now called on the international community to provide nearly €80m to fund the spraying of the affected areas with insecticide.
GOAL Country Director for Ethiopia, Dinkneh Asfaw, said he witnessed at first hand this week the devastation on the ground due to locusts’ swarms in Borena in South Eastern Ethiopia where almost 8,000 hectacres of grass land and forest were affected. Crops wiped out include maize, teff and haricot beans, vital food sources. Oromiya Region and Somali Region continued to be badly affected this week.
“In the last few days swarms have crossed from the Kenyan border to these regions wreaking havoc. It is horrific. Fields of crops are being wiped out before people’s eyes. As we drove by on the roads from Teltele to Yabello, millions of swarms were crossing and infesting new areas surrounded by green pastures and leaves, while cattle and camels fled. In our areas of operation the crops of over 10,200 families are gone. These people and children will be without the means for food.”
He added: “The next planting season for these areas “Hagaya” will start from 15th of March. Unless the farmers are supported with seed provision, it will leave a huge food gaps for the families to cope with the crisis. “
GOAL Ethiopia is currently supporting local government efforts to control the infestation using a coordinated approach through spraying and other means. It is providing vehicles to the help the Ministry of Agriculture do GPS tracking of the swarms. However, Mr Asfaw has warned the resources are insufficient to cover all affected areas.
‘‘If the infestation is not controlled the outbreak is likely to spread to wider regions across the country and beyond. Resources are urgently needed so we can scale up our efforts to respond to the outbreak. We are appealing to the donor community and public to support our efforts to halt the infestation, to help protect vital food and income sources, and prevent a disaster from occurring.”
He said the locust infestation is compounding issues in regions in Ethiopia already hit hard by drought and internal conflict. The Government of Ethiopia has already appealed for humanitarian support for this year for seven million vulnerable people in need of food and non-food support. This figure did not factor the locust infestation impact.
Locusts can travel up to 150 km a day and a swarm the size of Paris could eat the same amount of food as half the population of France in a single day
Heavy rain last year created ideal conditions for the insects to spread and there are reports indicating sources of breeding places in Chelbo which is adjacent to GOAL operations in Teletele district. The FAO has stressed that if favourable breeding conditions continue, the increase in locust infestation emergency could last until June.
Discover Wako Bagele’s story and how he and his family have been affected.
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