Uganda + 6 more

Locusts swarm into northern Uganda as Oxfam looks toward a $5m humanitarian response across region

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Locust infestations have just hit two new districts in northern Uganda as they continue to plague Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, and threaten Sudan and South Sudan. There are also reports of the swarms now in Tanzania.

“Everyone is in panic and trying to make noise to drive the locusts away, says Oxfam’s Ethiopia Country Director Gezahegn Gebrehana.

This is the worst locust crisis in 70 years for Kenya alone. Locust breeding is continuing with more juvenile insects developing now, so the swarms could still get bigger, more widespread and last until June if not brought more quickly under control. There are already 22.8m people living in acute to severe food insecurity in those six countries following consecutive failed rainy seasons, unusual floods and storms.

The fast-moving locust swarms have been made worse by climate change because they have been encouraged to feed on newly “greened” vegetation, the result of unusual weather patterns. They are devastating pastures and grasslands and could ruin new food crops from the March-to-July growing season.

“We depend on livestock and if there is no fodder for our livestock, life will be difficult for us, we ask for help urgently,” said Mohammed Hassan Abdille, a farmer from Bura Dhima in Tana River, Kenya.

Oxfam is working closely with our local partners and communities to help the most affected people across the four countries with the outbreak, aiming to reach over 190,000 of the most vulnerable people with cash assistance, livestock feed, seeds, and health services.

In Somalia, together with our partners, we aim to reach 11,670 households of the most vulnerable people. In Kenya, Oxfam is working with members of the Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) Humanitarian Platform that has members in seven of the 13 affected counties and aims to assist 3000 households in the first phase of its operations, and another 5,000 in the second. In Ethiopia, Oxfam aims to reach another 5,000 households with similar aid.

Oxfam is ramping up its region-wide humanitarian response with $650,000 and will need to secure more than $5m to reach the most vulnerable people it has targeted. Oxfam teams in South Sudan and Sudan are also preparing against the likelihood of new infestations there.

Oxfam says that lessons from the last local plague in the Sahel in 2003-5 showed that a two-pronged attack was vital, to control the pests as well as work to do everything possible to protect local people’s livelihoods and restore them as quickly as possible.

Oxfam continues to urge international donors to fully fund the FAO’s $76m appeal as soon as possible. The current total stands at around $18m. “This is the time for decisive action,” said Gebrehana.

Notes to editors

  • Nearly 22.8 million people are severely food insecure (IPC 3 and above) as follows : in Ethiopia (6.7 million people), Kenya (3.1 million), Somalia (2.1 million), South Sudan (4.5 million), Sudan (5.8 million) and Uganda (600,000).
  • Given the scale of the current swarms, aerial control is the only effective means to reduce the locust numbers. In Ethiopia, ground teams and four aircraft are conducting control operations against swarms – nearly 8 000 hectares were treated in the first two weeks of January 2020. In Kenya, four aircraft are currently spraying, but operations have been limited due to available capacity or collective experience – Kenya last faced a Desert Locust invasion in 2007”
  • The outbreak, which has primarily been driven by the recent climatic shocks in the region, comes after Oxfam warned of a potential outbreak in Uganda end of last month.
  • The swarms which could grow 500 times bigger by June are devastating pasture and food supplies across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya and could also put South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti at risk, making it the worst of such situation in 25 years.
  • The locust swarms have increased significantly over the past month in across 13 Kenyan counties including Isiolo, Samburu, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Laikipia, Mandera, Kitui, Baringo, Meru, Embu and Turkana

Contact information

Spokespersons are available. To arrange for interviews contact:

Oxfam in Uganda

Winnie Kyamulabi Mukalazi

Communications Assistant

Oxfam in Uganda

Mobile: +256-701032238 | +256-773457946

Email: winnie.kyamulabi.mukalazi@oxfam.org

Oxfam in Ethiopia

Tigist Gebru

Media and Communications Coordinator

Oxfam in Ethiopia

Mobile: +251-909 79 10 88

Email: TGebru@oxfam.org.uk

Oxfam in Kenya

Caroline Mochoge

Communications Assistant

Oxfam in Kenya

Mobile: +254 (0) 708 712888

Email: cmochoge@oxfamorg.uk

Oxfam in Somalia

Abdiaziz Adani

Senior Advocacy & Communications Officer

Mobile: +252 63 4411020

Email: Abdiaziz.Adani@oxfam.org