Locust Emergency – FAQs

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

What is the crisis in Ethiopia?

In late 2019, huge swarms of locusts migrated from Yemen to East Africa. Although poor rainy seasons and flooding caused many hazards, farmers believed the excess water was a stroke of luck and would provide a good harvest that year. Instead, it offered the perfect breeding ground for locusts.

Locusts are the world’s most dangerous migratory pests and huge swarms began moving to East Africa. These swarms are now the size of cities- as dense as 40 million insects per 1km2 (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation). They have devastated huge areas of farmland across Ethiopia, most significantly Dire Dawa, Somali, Tigray and Afar- where our partner APDA is based.

It is the worst locust invasion for 25 years, perhaps even in living memory. An average swarm consists of 150 million locusts per km2 and can travel up to 150km per day during windy conditions. A 1km2 locust swarm can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. These swarms are consuming everything in their path, leaving people who survive on crops for food and income in a critical condition.

What are the effects?

Farmers have reported that all of their staple grain crop, teff, has been lost as well as pastures for their livestock. The Afari people’s livestock is their livelihood and sole source of income, food and milk to support their families. These animals are the only hope for these isolated communities to remain self-sufficient.

Those living in the Afar region tell us that there is severe food insecurity. Food shortages have led to malnutrition, lost livelihoods and desperation. With no fodder for their livestock, these animals can no longer produce milk. For children who already exist on so little this is causing stunted development and growth.

For the challenged and almost destitute pastoralists this is life-threatening. Stories of adults barely eating to save food for children are now widespread. The normal back-up coping mechanism of assisting each other is becoming less and less possible. So many animals have died from lack of veterinary care, pasture and malnourishment.

The Ethiopian government screened all districts in Afar this January and put 24 districts into the dangerous category of ‘hot- spot no. 1’ for malnutrition, and the other 8 are not far behind. In Afar, our partner, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA), currently has 38,000 people relying on them for survival and anticipate many more.

What is the biggest need?

Fammax and veterinary care for livestock is crucial if the Afari people are to survive this emergency.

The biggest need is the emergency food aid, fammax. The locust crisis fell upon the Afar people when there was already very little food in households and the pastures were not replenished after an unstable rainy season. This season the harvest was poor further decreasing the amount of grain in the markets and stores.

With livestock dying, there is a need for specific veterinary training on how to treat and care for livestock during these times. Households and communities whose livestock are still alive need help in sustainably caring for their animals. They need education, fodder and veterinary medical kits.

Are there any solutions?

APDA is currently working directly with these communities to help them during this crisis. They have worked within the remote communities of Afar for decades and they tell us what works, what communities need to survive and what the struggles and fears are as they happen. They know the community inside and out; they know best.

When an emergency hits the communities we support, it is critical we act swiftly to solve them. There are numerous international agencies working on solutions and efforts to decrease the effects of this crisis. However, these take time to process, organise and distribute. APDA is able to respond before international agencies, directing support immediately to those most affected.

APDA are currently raising funds to:

  • Distribute 67,500kg of Fammax (emergency food aid)
  • Distribute 9,000kg of sugar to households
  • Provide 25 health workers dedicated to nutrition assessment
  • Support the distribution of government oil and wheat rations
  • 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

Because of your support and Ethiopiaid’s small and agile nature, we have been able to quickly respond to APDA’s reports and send funding. However, this is an unprecedented crisis, which is worsening daily, and we need to raise more funds to make sure APDA.

How can I help?

There are three key ways you can help:

  1. Donate to our appeal. This may seem obvious, however it is the most effective way of helping families and farmers stay alive. All donations given will go towards helping APDA continue the work listed above. Without this vital work, these communities face extinction.
  2. Spread awareness of the situation to friends, family and people you think may be able to help. We recognise that the world is currently facing an unprecedented global health crisis, but it is also important to recognise that across the globe, poverty and crises, just like this, still persist and will continue until those with the ability to help, do so. Spreading awareness helps us reach those who do have the power to help us, and in doing so, the act itself is a brilliant way to contribute to the solution if you are financially unable to.
  3. Keep up to date with news on the emergency. With the world’s headlines mainly focussing on the coronavirus pandemic, other news stories are easily missed and forgotten about. This crisis is most likely to worsen and fade into the background of other news. If you can, why not set up an alert on your phone for news about the locust emergency. You will then be able respond quickly when this crisis inevitably worsens.

Please help us to give the people of Afar the means to survive this crisis by donating here.

If you would like to know more about this crisis and other ways you can help, please email support@ethiopiaid.org.uk, or call 01225 476 385.

Written by Lizzie Muir

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