23 Aug Desert Locusts Invasion and Food Insecurity by Elizabeth Adeyemo
Desert Locusts Invasion and Food Insecurity
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO), it is presumed that about 3.5 million people in Somalia would suffer from a food crisis or worse without any humanitarian assistance. The outbreak of desert locusts in Somalia contributes to the high rate of food insecurity and severe hunger and threatens to displace many pastures and pastoral households. Read about this impending disaster in this article.
The most severe desert locust invasion East Africa has ever experienced in 70 years occurred a few months ago, with its upsurge largest in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. With their numbers advancing, they threaten to affect their food security and livelihoods of many. Somalia was the first country to declare an emergency from the locusts’ outbreak in February 2020 and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) project that between July and September 2020, about 3.5 million people would be at risk to food crisis or worse in Somalia without any assistance from humanitarian organizations.
The desert locusts are said to be the most extremely dangerous migratory pests in the world with very high mobility. A swarm of desert locusts can consist of 150 million adult locusts per square kilometer and can cover 150km in a day. They can eat as much as 35,000 people food for a day. If the breeding of the desert locusts is not stopped, the population size threatens to increase 8000 times the original size (FAO, 2020).
In addition to the high degree of food insecurity and hunger affecting more than 19 million people in East Africa, these swarms of desert locusts have resulted in the loss of crops and vegetables, loss of pasture, contamination of water sources, displacement of pastoral households, and loss of livelihoods in Somalia. These contribute and threatens to affect food prices and security in Somalia.
Women and girls are even at a higher risk. There could be increased vulnerability from threats such as violence, due to the absence of their male partners and adolescent sons, who are usually pastoralists. The women are overburdened with so much as they have to manage what is left of the remaining farms, small businesses, and the unmet needs of the family. More specifically, female-headed households are particularly vulnerable.
Efforts need to be put in place to protect the food security, health, and livelihoods of Somali people. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), humanitarian assistance is urgently needed to support households at risk and alleviate food and harvest loss. Inadequate funding limits support to households and communities at risk, especially women and girls, thereby increasing their vulnerability to hunger, malnutrition, and death.
Hunger Reduction International is a humanitarian relief and development organization committed to ending the prevalence of famine, hunger, and malnutrition throughout the Horn of Africa, by improving food security and the economics associated with pastoral livelihoods. HRI is also concerned with promoting gender equality by empowering communities.
Sources: FAO, 2020
International Rescue Committee