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Easter appeal: Coronavirus and deadly locusts

As coronavirus disease sweeps the world, a plague of locusts is devastating crops in Asia and Africa

The world is reeling from the new Covid 19 virus, affecting countries rich and poor – no one knows what will happen or what to do.  At the same time an old and familiar foe – the locust plague – is devastating areas of Africa and Asia. While media attention and Western resources focus on tackling their coronavirus,  how will Africa’s struggling healthcare systems deal with it?  And what resources are left to help the victims of the locusts, whose crops have been destroyed, leaving them with the prospect of starvation?

“These locusts destroy many things. They destroy vegetables leaving people in famine. They are eating grass and leaves which cause the livestock to die, leaving the people without animals, which then cause the people to die,” said Taratam, an 85-year-old Kenyan Christian farmer.

The desert locust is considered the most dangerous migratory pest on earth
The desert locust is considered the most dangerous migratory pest on earth [image credit: ©FAO/Sven Torfinn]

The plague of locusts is devastating crops and livelihoods in Africa and Asia. Many thousands of already marginalized and persecuted Christians are among those facing severe food shortages as vast swarms of locusts cause catastrophic loss to crops.

UN warning for East Africa

The ravenous swarms are sweeping across East Africa with devastating impact on countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and South Sudan. The UN has warned the region is on the verge of a food crisis. The infestation is the worst for decades in Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti, where Christians are already marginalized and persecuted.

Double disaster in Kenya

A double disaster has hit Kenya. In Marsabit county, unusually heavy rains brought flooding last year that wreaked extensive damage. In semi-arid East Pokot the rains did not come at all last year; pastures withered and livestock died. Our partner in the region told us, “Many [farmers] have lost seeds and hope.” 

Then the locusts invaded, devouring crops and pasture. If uncontained, the locust plague could increase fivefold by June.

Trying desperately to defend her crops as locusts desce nd in
East Africa ©FAO/Sven Torfinn
Trying desperately to defend her crops as locusts descend in East Africa ©FAO/Sven Torfinn

Food relief is needed to save the lives of many Kenyan Christian families. Widows, orphans, pregnant women, children and elderly Christians are especially vulnerable.

Ethiopian farmland “looks like desert”

The locusts are deepening the serious humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Normally lush and green, the highland vegetable farms “look like a desert” in the wake of the devouring swarms. Pasture for livestock has also been gnawed to stubble. Around 10,000 Christian families saw their vital subsistence food crops wiped out. They need urgent food aid to replace vanished staple food supplies.

“Things seem so hard now for many families,” said our regional partner, “unless God intervenes to solve our difficulties.” 

30,000 acres ravaged in Pakistan

The scale of the 2020 locust invasion is almost unheard of in Pakistan. The insects ravaged around 30,000 acres of land in Sindh province. Thousands of Christian farming families are facing severe food shortages. The cotton harvest – an important cash crop – was also devoured by the insects leaving many without income.

“THIS WAS WORST ATTACK I EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE, LIKE A FLOOD OF LOCUSTS, TRAVELLING AND EATING EVERYTHING ON ITS WAY,” SAID RAMOO (AGED 61)

Many farmers have been forced to sell their livestock and household possessions to buy food and other basic family needs.

Locusts pour into Uganda and South Sudan

A mature swarm of desert locusts poured across from western Kenya into north-east Uganda in February. The insects caused significant destruction in the border districts and concerns are growing that there will be a huge loss of food crops and pasture in the cattle corridors of this rural area, as the insects breed and spread.

Swarms were also recorded in crisis-ridden South Sudan, which is already struggling with widespread food insecurity after years of civil war.

Please help save thousands of Christians left hungry and overwhelmed by the locust plague. Many of them face daily discrimination or persecution.

$10* could provide 33 lbs of wheat in Ethiopia

$19* could provide 66 lbs of rice in Pakistan

$40* could provide 220 lbs of maize in Kenya

*Costs and specific needs can vary

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