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Locust upsurge in East and Horn of Africa - Final Report n° MDR60005 (15 February 2022)

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Description of the disaster

Eastern Africa experienced a locust invasion starting November 2019, when the dangerous migratory pests crossed into the region in large numbers. What started as an outbreak eventually covered larger geographical areas, developing into an upsurge and causing serious concerns for the food security and livelihoods situation of the region. The locust invasion in East Africa has been described as the worst in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia, and the worst in 70 years for Kenya. Desert locusts move in large numbers and can multiply in numbers by a factor of 20 every three months. This is a major cause for concern as they can destroy large areas of vegetation and crops, thus threatening food security and livelihoods of affected populations and the consequences might be massive. A single squarekilometre swarm can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 people. Experts have predicted increased cross border movements of the locusts between Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, potentially aggravating an already precarious food security situation.

During 2020 the swarms continued to invade and spread, mature and lay eggs in Ethiopia and Kenya. Hatching occurred in northeast Somalia. In February 2020 swarms continued in Kenya and reached Uganda, South Sudan and the way to Tanzania, with widespread hatching and bands in Kenya. Due to widespread hatching a new generation of swarms formed in Ethiopia and Kenya in March 2020. In April more swarms matured and laid eggs in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. In May yet another generation hatched and band formation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. In June second-generation swarms formed in northwest Kenya and swarms formed in Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. In July more swarms formed in northwest Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen. In August the swarms matured in northeast Ethiopia, while immature swarms persisted in northwest Kenya and northern Somalia. In September widespread hatching and band, formation was seen in northeast Ethiopia and Yemen, while immature swarms persisted in north Somalia and northern Kenya. During the end of the year, the swarms continued widespread breeding in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

Since the beginning of 2021 desert locust swarms has continuously declined in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia as a result of ongoing control operations. However, if outcomes for upcoming rainy seasons (October-November-December) are good, this may create breeding grounds for current immature swarms. Furthermore, insecurity in Ethiopia and bordering countries may affect the degree of control measures, which could allow for further breeding of swarms in the coming months.