FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 file photo, a farmer's son raises his arms as he is surrounded by desert locusts while trying to chase them away from his crops, in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya. Locusts, COVID-19 and deadly flooding pose a "triple threat" to millions of people across East Africa, officials warned Thursday, May 21, 2020 while the World Bank announced a $500 million program for countries affected by the historic desert locust swarms. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 file photo, a farmer's son raises his arms as he is surrounded by desert locusts while trying to chase them away from his crops, in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya. Locusts, COVID-19 and deadly flooding pose a "triple threat" to millions of people across East Africa, officials warned Thursday, May 21, 2020 while the World Bank announced a $500 million program for countries affected by the historic desert locust swarms. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Battle Against Desert Locusts Gets $500 Million Boost From World Bank

By David Herbling Time of article published May 23, 2020

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INTERNATIONAL - The World Bank approved $500 million to help fight the worst desert-locust invasion in decades that’s threatening food security in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

Countries including Ethiopia Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Yemen face a second wave of locust swarms from June. Failure to combat the pests in the Horn of Africa and Yemen could result in crop and livestock losses of as much as $8.5 billion by year-end, according to the World Bank. The lender estimates the intervention could limit the damage to $2.5 billion.

Anxiety over the locust swarms, able to quickly consume square kilometers of crop, grew as the coronavirus pandemic emerged and decimated economies, further stretching governments.

“This food-supply emergency combined with the pandemic and economic shutdown in advanced economies places some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at even greater risk,” the World Bank’s President David Malpass said in a statement Thursday.

More than 22.5 million people are already facing hunger in Eastern Africa, according to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. A second wave of the locust swarms -- expected in June when farmers in the region prepare to harvest their crops -- could worsen food insecurity and put more people at the risk of losing their livelihoods, the Food and Agriculture Organization warned last week.

Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti will access a total of $160 million in the first phase of the so-called emergency locust-response program from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessional lending arm for poor countries. The funds will help curb the locusts invasion, provide farm inputs and other forms of relief to the most affected and improve preparedness to respond in future, according to the lender.

Unusual weather patterns, which boosted vegetation over parts of the Horn of Africa and the Arab peninsula from last year, saw the pests fly southwards, creating an unprecedented threat to food security.

Below is how the funds will be disbursed:

  • Ethiopia will get $63 million, half of which is a grant, to partly provide seeds, fertilizer and livestock feed
  • In Uganda, $48 million will help create employment programs and activities to boost resilience including the conservation of water and soil
  • Kenya, facing the worst locust invasion in 70 years, will receive $43 million mainly for grants to pastoral households and to help farmers rehabilitate crop and livestock systems disrupted by the pests
  • Djibouti’s $6 million will partly go to households in cash transfers

BLOOMBERG 

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