Millions of East Africans Starving Due to Locust Outbreak

Locust outbreak has been severely devastating East African countries. Locusts have destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland. The pest that has been rapidly multiplying has left millions of East Africans starving.

Africa crisis.
Desert locust pests destroy the agricultural sector in East African countries. (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

ACTNews, EAST AFRICA – Desert locust attacks in East Africa have been getting worse in recent years. The insect, which has another name of Schistocerca gregaria often damages farmers' crops. The agricultural sector is also experiencing crop failure and drastically declining food production.

Without immediate action, 5 million people could face starvation this summer. Swarms have already destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops and pastureland in eight countries—Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Sudan—and threaten to spread wider as locusts are known to breed quickly and uncontrollably.

In this phase, the insect is able to multiply 20 times within three months and reach a density of 80 million locusts per square kilometer. Each tail is able to eat 2 grams of vegetation per day. When combined, a locust swarm with 80 million members can eat the equivalent of 35,000 people’s food per day.

Among several countries, Somalia is reported to receive the most severe impact of the outbreak. The Somali government was first in the region to declare a nationwide emergency in response to the desert-locust crisis that may cause hunger to millions of its population.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) announces the outbreak as the worst in 70 years. Without expedited preventative measures, swarms will migrate from East Africa to West Africa.

“This is the worst locust invasion we have seen in our generation. It destroyed pastures, contaminated water sources, and [has] displaced many pastoral households. The worst of all is that we do not have the capacity to control it, and so far we have not received any external support,” says Sahal Farah of Docol, an IRC partner organization. 

In addition, the World Bank estimates that in 2021, 5.2 million people across Somalia will face acute or stressed levels of food insecurity in the absence of urgent assistance. In recent months, not only the impact of pest attacks that have increased but also due to drought and outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.[]