Irish humanitarian aid agency, GOAL, has warned that the combination of a second locust swarm, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19, may lead to massive food shortages in Ethiopia.
Already this year billions of the insects wreaked havoc on crops in Ethiopia and other countries in East Africa, destroying crops and a vital food supply source.
GOAL says an expected new escalation of the locust swarms in its areas of operation will potentially result in tons of crops being wiped out for the second time this year, impacting thousands of farmers in need of every gram of good to feed themselves and their families. The desert locust upsurge is compounding an already bleak food security situation. Forecasts from the recently released Global Report on Food Crises indicate that over 25 million people will experience acute food insecurity in mid to late 2020 in Eastern Africa.
In January and February GOAL supported local authorities in the controlling measures helping communities protect their farms from the insects. The huge swarms appeared due to unusually early rainfall which produced the ideal conditions for the locusts to reproduce. The first swarm destroyed significant value of crops and eroded many vulnerable communities livelihoods.
With a small swarm of locusts able to travel up to 150 kilometres in 24 hours and munch through as much food as 35,000 people would eat in a day in the process, the fear is that hunger will soon spread. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, 20 million Ethiopians are already facing food shortages.
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
Cases of Covid-19 have been rising in the country in recent days. As of 21st May there have been 398 cases with five deaths reported in all parts of region except one in Gambella, in South West. Many of these cases have been clustered in the capital Addis Ababa followed by Somali region. GOAL is helping thousands of people across the country, including many who live in refugee camps the West and North East.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have warned said that the locusts – already in the hundreds of billions – are multiplying and predict the insects are breeding so fast that numbers could grow 500 times by June.
GOAL assisted in the fight against the locusts’ swarms in Borena in South Eastern Ethiopia earlier this year, where almost 8,000 hectares of grass land and forest were affected. Crops wiped out include maize, teff and haricot beans, vital food sources. Oromiya Region and Somali Region were also badly affected.
Country Director for GOAL in Ethiopia, Dinkneh Asfaw, said: “What we saw in January and February was horrific. Fields of crops were wiped out before people’s eye. 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 were taken leaving these people and children will be without the means for food.”
He added: “We are now facing a second wave of infestation and this will be devastating for thousands of people who are depending on the next harvest for food to survive. Restrictions around the COVID-19 crisis are also impacting and compounding the issue. There will be a huge food gaps for families. “
“If the new 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. “