Some one million people in Ethiopia require emergency food aid after swarms of desert locusts damaged 200,000 hectares (half a million acres) of cropland in a region already struggling with food security, the United Nations has said.
The announcement on Monday from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which recently concluded a joint assessment with the Ethiopian government, came as parts of East Africa are bracing for new swarms that could be even more devastating.
Billions of desert locusts, some in swarms the size of Moscow, have already chomped their way through much of the region, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.
Their breeding has been spurred by one of the wettest rainy seasons in the region in decades.
In Ethiopia, the locusts have caused widespread losses of sorghum, wheat and maize, also known as corn, and vastly reduced the amount of available land for cattle grazing, FAO said.
Of the one million individuals requiring emergency food assistance, some 75 percent live in the country's Somali and Oromia regions.
About 8.5 million people in Ethiopia are already in severe acute food insecurity and in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the FAO.
In the six East African countries worst affected or at risk of locusts - Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania - some 20 million people are already experiencing acute food insecurity, according to FAO.
Fatouma Seid, FAO Ethiopia representative, said farmers and pastoralists in the country, needed help in the form of agricultural inputs and cash transfers to get them through the emergency, which was being worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. ■
A significant heavy rainfall event is forecast for the Southwest as a mid-level low and anomalously high moisture associated with a remnant tropical wave help to enhance storm development associated with an already active monsoon.