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East Africa - Desert Locust Crisis, Fact Sheet #6, Fiscal Year (FY) 2020

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  • Desert locust populations in Kenya have declined due to recent control operations and onward migrations toward Ethiopia and Sudan.

  • FAO anticipates that Ethiopia will remain an epicenter of the regional desert locust upsurge through October unless intensive control operations are launched.

  • Response teams continue to conduct locust control activities in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia but report that surveillance capacity in Ethiopia requires further strengthening.

  • The threat of locust invasions into West Africa from Sudan has subsided.


Operations Continue Against Locusts in Kenya and Somalia

Response teams continue to control bands of hoppers—immature, wingless locusts—and immature swarms in northwestern Kenya, contributing to a significant decline in desert locust populations in recent weeks, FAO reports. Most swarms are now concentrated in the region’s Turkana County, where aerial and ground operations are ongoing. Northward migrations to Ethiopia and Sudan—via South Sudan and possibly northeastern Uganda—have begun; however, FAO expects the overall scale of desert locust migrations from Kenya to be smaller than previously anticipated due to the success of recent control efforts.

Meanwhile, aerial and ground teams in Somalia have launched control interventions against immature swarms detected on the northern plateau between Nugal Region’s Garoowe city and Woqooyi Galbeed Region’s Hargeysa city, where some breeding is underway; the situation in the south—where access constraints are hindering surveillance—remains unclear. Swarms in northern Somalia continue to migrate eastward and could travel across the Indian Ocean to India and Pakistan unless adequately controlled. FAO notes that the threat to Southwest Asia is expected to decrease as rains produce favorable breeding conditions in northern Somalia in the coming weeks.

Internet Services Suspension, Insecurity Hinder Surveillance in Ethiopia

Control operations against immature swarms in Ethiopia’s northern Rift Valley and eastern Harar Highlands are ongoing, with response teams also receiving reports of locust presence in Afar, Amhara,
Tigray, and Somali regions in recent weeks, according to FAO. However, a countrywide suspension of internet and telecommunications services—imposed by the Government of Ethiopia in response to civil unrest in the capital city of Addis Ababa and Oromiya Region—may have hindered locust surveillance for three weeks during July, preventing timely reporting on the locust situation and challenging efforts to launch targeted pest control interventions.

FAO and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) project that infestations could persist across Ethiopia through January 2021, with the country serving as an epicenter of the regional upsurge through at least October due to favorable breeding conditions in eastern, northern, and western Ethiopia, as well as declining desert locust populations in Kenya and Somalia. In recent weeks, immature swarms from Kenya have migrated northwards into Ethiopia and joined existing swarms, traveling to the country’s northern highlands or onward to northwestern Somalia. Two swarms from Yemen—another epicenter for summer infestations—had also arrived in northeastern Ethiopia as of early August; FAO expects further invasions from Kenya and Yemen to amplify locust breeding in Ethiopia in the coming weeks.

While FEWS NET anticipates regenerative rainfall will offset any locust-related damage to pastureland in most affected areas of northern and western Ethiopia in the coming months, localized pasture losses are likely in some conflict-affected areas of the two regions, where insecurity is restricting surveillance and control efforts. In the absence of large-scale aerial and ground control campaigns, desert locust infestations—coupled with projected below-average rainfall—will likely result in significant crop and pasture losses from October to December.

Threat of Invasions Into West Africa Subsides as Rains Continue in Sudan

The risk of onward migrations from Sudan into West Africa’s Sahel region has subsided due to seasonal rainfall in Sudan’s White Nile State and Darfur and Kordofan regions, which has produced suitable conditions for locust breeding and development in recent weeks. As such, FAO expects swarms from Kenya to rapidly mature and lay eggs upon arrival in Sudan, reducing the likelihood of locusts invading eastern Chad and traveling further west across the Sahel in search of favorable conditions for breeding and development.
Government of Sudan Plant Protection Directorate (PPD) teams continue to survey at-risk areas in Sudan, including areas located near the Sudan–South Sudan border. Although a few swarms are expected to arrive in Sudan in the coming weeks, PPD teams had not detected any invasions from Kenya as of August 7.

Locusts and Below-Average Rains to Impact Crops and Livestock in Somalia

In recent months, the socioeconomic impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mitigation measures, erratic rainfall, and desert locust infestations have exacerbated food insecurity across Somalia, particularly in central pastoral areas, where low livestock holdings, the threat of expanding locust infestations, and limited access to humanitarian assistance are driving Crisis—IPC 3—levels of acute food insecurity, according to FEWS NET. Meanwhile, the provision of emergency assistance is preventing food security conditions from deteriorating above Stressed—IPC 2—conditions in northern pastoral areas of Somalia, particularly as locusts have damaged less pastureland than initially anticipated.
FEWS NET underscores that sustained assistance is critical for preventing food insecurity in Somalia’s central and northern pastoral areas and southern agro-pastoral areas from worsening during the remainder of 2020, as locust-related damage, as well as forecast below-average October-to-December deyr rains, could undermine crop and livestock production.

Rains Improve Pasture Availability in Kenya; Reinfestations Pose Some Risk

FEWS NET projects that recent above-average rainfall will support pasture growth across most pastoral areas of Kenya in the coming months, though locusts could cause localized forage losses in the country’s northern pastoral counties, including Mandera, Marsabit, Turkana, Samburu, and Wajir counties, should reinfestations occur. Since above-average March-to-May long rains contributed to favorable crop conditions in most areas of Kenya, food availability continues to improve with the harvest of early planted crops; however, most pastoral households will likely face Stressed levels of acute food insecurity through September, with FEWS NET projecting the persistence of Crisis conditions in insecure parts of Mandera and flood-affected areas of Tana River County during the same period.