East Africa’s Locust Crisis in Numbers

ADDIS ABEBA – Three East African Nations – Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia – are struggling with “unprecedented” and “devastating” swarms of the food-devouring insects, according to UN Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The agency fears locust numbers could grow 500 times by June.

Ethiopia and Somalia have not faced an infestation on this scale for 25 years, while Kenya has not seen a locust threat this size for 70 years, the FAO said earlier this week. South Sudan and Uganda are also at risk if the swarms continue to grow and spread.

The statistics below, as per the UN humanitarian agency, show the locust crisis in number.

  • 70

Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are being invaded by enormous swarms of desert locusts in the worst desert locust infestation in 70 years in Kenya, and in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia.

  • 150 km

A desert locust can travel 150km in a single day.

  • 35,000

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. The infestation has destroyed hundreds of kilometers of vegetation in Ethiopia and tens of thousands of hectares of land in Somalia. In Kenya, some swarms are reaching the Rift Valley, one of the region’s breadbaskets. There is a very high risk that swarms could appear in northeastern Uganda, southeast South Sudan and southwest Ethiopia without a rapid scale-up in control measures.

  • 40 million

Each 1km2 locust swarm is made up of approximately 40 million locusts but swarms can reach hundreds of millions. One swarm in northeast Kenya was estimated at 2,400 km2. Climate change, which has led to severe weather extremes, including cyclones and unusually heavy rains, has caused locust populations to explode. The upcoming rainy season will lead to further increases in swarms unless control measures rapidly scale up.

  • 19 million

The locust is making the bad food security situation worse in East Africa. The invasion could lead to a considerable drop in agricultural production and would exacerbate malnutrition in hunger in a region where 19 million people are already severely food insecure.

  • 485,000

The number of hectares of land targeted for rapid locust control in the three affected countries.

  • $10 million

The amount the UN’s emergency fund, the Central Emergency Response Fund has released to the Food and Agriculture Organization to scale up aerial spraying and ground control operations in at-risk areas. Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said: “If left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to spill over into more countries in East Africa with horrendous consequences. A swift and determined response to contain it is essential. This allocation from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund will fund a massive scale-up in aerial operations to manage the outbreak.”