Locust Emergency – Eight Facts You Need to Know

As the locust emergency in Ethiopia develops, here are eight facts we’ve put together to help you understand more about just how devastating and life-threatening this crisis is.

1.This is the worst invasion for 25 years.

There have been estimates that some swarms are as big as 200 billion locusts. The effect of these locusts has been exacerbated by the fact that many pastoralists have very little food and pastures were not replenished after last year’s unstable rainy season. Even during this season the harvest was poor meaning there was little grain in the market or in the stores.

2.Desert Locusts are the most damaging of their breed.

Desert locusts are a species of grasshopper that live largely solitary lives until a combination of conditions promote breeding and lead them to form massive swarms. An average swarm consists of 150 million locusts per km2 and can travel up to 150 km per day during windy conditions. These swarms then consume everything on their journeys, leaving people who survive on crops for food and income in a devastating position.

3.Locusts can eat their own weight in food in one day.

A 1km2 locust swarm can eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people. Once locusts have formed a swarm, they develop a voracious appetite, devouring everything in their path. So, if a swarm consists of 200 billion locusts, this amounts to the same food in one day as 84 million people. Hundreds of thousands of acres of crops in East Africa have already been consumed, with the United Nations calling for international help to quell the crisis. 

4.Farmers are losing up to 100% of their grain.

For the challenged and almost destitute pastoralists this is life-threatening. Grain and care for livestock are crucial. The Afari people’s livestock is their livelihood and only source of income, food and milk; they are their only hope in remaining self-sufficient. So many animals have died from lack of veterinary care, pasture and malnourishment. Stories of adults barely eating to save food for children are now widespread.

5.By June 2020, the number of locusts could multiply by 500 times.

If weather conditions remain favourable for locusts, they will continue to breed and multiply. For pastoralist communities in Ethiopia, this could prove catastrophic, with food supplies running increasingly low. With no feed for their livestocks, animals will weaken from starvation and die. In fact, the United Nations has estimated the 20 million people living in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia will be affected.

6.This not only threatens people’s livelihoods and lives, but  all of Ethiopia’s economy.

The agricultural sector accounts for 34.7% of Ethiopia’s GDP. With desert locusts able to eat their own weight in food everyday and with their number and reach being so large, the agricultural sector is currently being affected significantly. The Afar people can travel for days to reach the nearest market but there is no grain for farmers to even sell, yet alone for the Afari to buy. This will only be exacerbated by the recent outbreak of coronavirus as more sectors within Ethiopia suffer financial losses.

7.38,ooo people are currently reliant on our partner, APDA, for survival.

In the Afar region of Ethiopia, people are pastoralists, relying on their herd and moving from place to place for water. This crisis has fallen at the worst possible time with families already having little food and barren pastures being common after an unstable rainy season. The normal back-up coping mechanism of assisting each other is becoming less and less possible.

8.You can make a difference.

Often we feel helpless in these emergencies. Distance creates doubts as to what we can offer as a solution. But, our partner APDA is on the ground working tirelessly to help those most affected. We’re currently raising £100,000 for APDA to continue this live-saving work.

APDA are distributing vital food aid to families such as this one

£100,000 will enable APDA to:
– Distribute 67,500kg of fammax (emergency food aid)
– Distribute 9,000kg of sugar to households
– Deliver 10 days of awareness raising training on available livestock treatment
– Distribute 25,000 veterinary medicine kits
– Transport 25 truckloads of supplementary fodder for animals

This is an emergency that requires an immediate response. We can help those in need and we have the power to save lives. If you are able to, please donate today and together we can help give the people of Afar the means to survive this crisis.

If you would like to donate, please click here.

Written by Lizzie Muir

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