East Africa faces 'alarming situation' with locusts - Lutherans, aid groups seek counter measure

(Photo: FAO/Petterik Wiggers)A herd of camels is trying to find its way through an invasion of locusts in Ethiopia, Jijiga, December 2019.

Locusts which have swarmed into the East and Horn of Africa region are eating their way through pastures and crops spurring the Lutheran World Federation and aid groups it is working with to call for measures to fight this plague.

The Lutheran World Federation together with other partners working in the East and Horn of Africa region is calling for anticipatory measures to fortify communities against the next locust plague, the LWF said.

A statement by the Regional Desert Locust Alliance, a consortium of 42 organizations working in East Africa along with aid organizations called on donors and local governments to provide additional support to affected communities.

They request livelihoods support, pesticides and cash assistance, and to set up early warning systems to detect the next swarm of locusts which is expected to arrive later in November or December.

"Anticipatory action will both reduce the impact of the crisis while also strengthening the resilience of extremely vulnerable populations", the organizations say in their statement.

The countries in the East and Horn of Africa already experienced a locust plague during the spring and summer of 2020.


The locust attacks, which began in 2019, have not only affected East Africa, but also the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent.

Their onslaught is said to be the worst recorded in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya for decades, threatening food security and livelihoods of millions who are already malnourished or food insecure.

"The situation in Ethiopia and Somalia is alarming" said Sophia Gebreyes, LWF country representative in Ethiopia. The east of the country is among the most affected areas.

"This swarm will cause damage to crops and pasture for the next two years."

The Bible was numerous references to locust attacks including one in the book of Revelation 9:3-10.

It says, "hen out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

"They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

"And [a]they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man."

As of October, the swarm and bands of immature locust, also known as hoppers had destroyed hundreds of hectares of crops and greens.


LWF said that 15,000 people have been displaced in the Oromia region.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, close to seven million Ethiopians will be food insecure in December, and up to 11 million in the first half of 2021.

The pests add to other disasters, like droughts, floods and the COVID-109 pandemic, which has hindered the delivery of relief goods and necessary equipment to battle the insects in the past months.

LWF said it has provided seeds, livestock feed and cash support to about 15,000 people in East Ethiopia.

The project is supported by the support of the European Union and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wurttemberg, in Germany.

"We cannot prevent the next swarm from coming, the locusts are already breeding," says Lokiru Yohana, LWF's regional program coordinator for East Africa.

"However, early and coordinated support will reduce the negative impacts on food security and livelihoods of already-vulnerable communities."

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