Heavy rainfall continued in December 2019 and January 2020 in several locations across East Africa, bringing the number of people affected by flooding since July 2019 to nearly 3.4 million. In Uganda, torrential rains in December affected at least 312,000 people, displacing around 65,000, and leaving a trail of destruction, including damaged homes, infrastructure, agriculture and livelihoods. In Burundi, heavy rains in the last week of December in the Buterere area damaged more than 470 houses and displaced over 3,700 people, increasing the number of people affected to over 12,000.
The unusually heavy rains that have impacted Eastern Africa since October 2019—driven by the strongest positive Indian Ocean Dipole since 2016—have contributed to a serious and widespread desert locust outbreak, according to FAO and IGAD. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan have been affected, with the outbreaks in Ethiopia and Somalia the worst in 25 years, and in Kenya the worst in 75 years. There remains a risk that locusts could appear in south-east South Sudan and north-east Uganda.
The locust invasion could exacerbate hunger and malnutrition in a region where nearly 25.5 million people are already severely food insecure in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. The desert locust is among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world: a 1km2 swarm can consume the equivalent of food for 35,000 people in one day. In Ethiopia, where floods had already impacted the harvest, the locust infestation destroyed hundreds of km2 of vegetation in the Amhara and Tigray regions alone. In Kenya, which was impacted by back-to-back droughts then floods in 2019, the past week saw a significant and extremely dangerous increase in swarm activity, and eight counties are now affected. One immature swarm was 60 km long by 40 km wide in the north-east. In Somalia, tens of thousands hectares of land have been affected in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug (Mudug), and mature swarms are present in the Garbahare area, near the Kenyan border.
A further increase in locust swarms is likely to continue until about June, due to the continuation of favourable ecological conditions for breeding.