The East and Horn of Africa region is already home to some of the most food insecure populations in the world. Now, with countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia currently facing one of the worst desert locust infestations in decades, coupled with the impacts of COVID-19, experts fear that the health crisis transforms into a food crisis unless global, regional and country level coordinated action is in place to control the economic crisis.
The East Africa region’s six infested countries host 25.3 million people facing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+), which is 28% of the case-load of Africa. In addition, five of the Desert Locust affected countries have 35 million people in Stress (IPC Phase 2).
These people do not have resilience for further disruption of their livelihoods, such as lack of economic and physical access to food due to COVID-19 containment measures.
Based on the current and projected Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analyses, more than 11 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, who are already facing high acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+), are located in areas currently affected by the desert locust infestations.
A further 2.76 million people in South Sudan and 120,000 people in Uganda facing high levels of acute food insecurity are also under threat, bringing the total number of the population at risk to nearly 14 million.
Key drivers including several consecutive failed rainy seasons, drought, torrential rains, flooding, disease outbreak (rift valley fever in Kenya and Uganda in 2018), ongoing conflict, and economic shocks, have already left millions of people highly food insecure in this region.
Experts say the second wave of desert locust swarms could swell further in this region, causing major damage to staple crops and rangelands.