The double burden of COVID-19 and locusts in East Africa: Saving Millions of People From Hunger and Malnutrition

Coinciding with COVID-19, an upsurge of desert locusts is taking place in the Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula and Southwest Asia, with risk of spreading to the Sahel region of Africa if it is not stopped by July. The desert locust is the world's most dangerous migratory pest. A one-square-kilometer swarm of this species of locust is capable of consuming the same amount of food in one day as approximately 35,000 people. This the most serious desert locust outbreak in East Africa in 70 years and representing an unprecedented risk to food security and livelihoods. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is predicting that a fourth generation of eggs will hatch creating a new swarm in mid-June, coinciding with the start of harvest and threatening current crop production, livestock pasture and crop cultivation for the following season. Without intervention, desert locust swarms in the Horn and East Africa may cause mass crop failure, exacerbating an already serious food security situation and plunging 4.9 million people into crisis-level food insecurity. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is responding in Somalia, which is estimated to be hardest hit. Communities have already reported that more than half of their cultivated land was affected. As the situation deteriorates, women and girls face particular risks and increased vulnerability to external threats.