An estimated one million people in Ethiopia are in need of emergency food assistance due to the ongoing desert locust invasion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned. Worst hit is the Somali region, with around 390 000 people affected, followed by the Oromia and Dire Dawa city, Afar, Amhara, Tigray and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) regions. The alert follows a joint assessment on the impact of desert locust on food security and livelihoods in Ethiopia carried out by FAO, the Government of Ethiopia, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and Non-Governmental Organizations.
FAO Representative in Ethiopia, Ms. Fatouma Seid, said, “As we strive to control the desert locust, it is critical to protect the livelihoods of affected populations, especially now that the situation is compounded by the COVID-19 crisis”. She added that as soon as conditions permit, FAO will continue to assist farmers and pastoralists with agricultural inputs and cash transfers. According to the last IPC analysis, an estimated 8.5 million people were already in severe acute food insecurity in Ethiopia prior to the invasion, a figure that is expected to rise following the desert locust crisis and COVID-19, which is hampering deliveries and travel.
Crop and pasture damage, limited cereal stocks
The assessment reports desert locust as having damaged about 200 000 ha of cropland and caused total cereal loss of over 356 000 MT of sorghum, maize and wheat. The Oromia, Somali and Tigray regions suffered the highest losses, with the majority of assessed households reporting either no or very limited cereal food stocks barely a month after the end of the meher harvest (September – February). Up to 1.3 million ha of pasture and grazing area were also damaged.
Increased cereal prices against stagnant and falling livestock prices
Soon after the harvest in February, the assessment reported a rise of about 50 percent in cereal prices on levels in 2019, yet about one-quarter of households were relying on markets for food. Meanwhile livestock prices were stagnant, which was likely eroding the resilience of pastoralists, particularly in the Afar, Oromia and Somali regions.
Food consumption and dietary diversity deteriorates
The proportion of households reporting poor food consumption rose from 37 percent in August to 41 percent in February. The Afar region recorded the highest increase and rate of poor consumption, at 91 percent in February compared to 58 percent in August, while in Oromia it climbed to 50 percent from a previous 38 percent. Furthermore, about two-thirds of households reported consuming fewer than three food groups compared to the seven recommended by experts, increasing their risk of malnutrition. Up to 97 percent of households in Afar and 74 percent in both Somali and Oromia regions consumed three or fewer food groups.
In addition to responding to the immediate food needs of the affected population, the report recommends strengthening national desert locust early warning, information sharing and control capacities. It calls for sustained humanitarian assistance to the existing caseload in the context of the prevailing COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, it calls for a comprehensive food security and nutrition survey to be conducted in June, in order to produce an IPC analysis on the impact of the desert locust and COVID-19 on seasonal food insecurity.
Source : Fao