For three days, blind Anna and her granddaughter lived on nothing but water and a daily cup of milk, given by a neighbour, which the pair shared between them. Locusts had destroyed the harvest from Anna’s little patch of land. She had no other source of food and was expecting to die. Then her pastor came visiting and told her there was food given by Barnabas Fund. All she had to do was go to the church and collect it.
“I felt as if I was dreaming,” remembered 85-year-old Anna, “because no person had ever come to my house with such news.” She called her little granddaughter, who led Anna by her stick, as is customary in Uganda, and before long they were back home with her pack of maize, beans, cooking oil and salt.
A locust plague on a scale unknown in at least a generation has invaded East Africa and Pakistan. Billions of insects devastated crops in the first wave in early 2020, then a deadly second wave numbering in the trillions ravaged a precious second-planting of crops and spread into India. A rare third generation, even more numerous, was predicted to hatch in June-July.
The UN has warned that East Africa is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. Parts of Ethiopia, where Barnabas has also sent aid, is encircled by a wide swathe of locust swarms, which consume around nine tonnes of green vegetation a day. Worse still, the locusts may spread across the Sahel to West Africa.
“This food is love put into action by believers,”
said Kenyan Christian, Mary
In Pakistan, experts predicted a “quantum leap” in food destruction if the swarms are not controlled. Aerial spraying is the most effective way, but difficult for countries to do if they are putting all their resources into battling coronavirus. Many farmers have therefore resorted to traditional, but virtually useless, methods like beating drums to try to keep the insects off their crops.
Parts of East Africa have also been contending with torrential rains that brought flooding and landslides. At least 100,000 people were displaced in Kenya alone, where the waters washed away 8,000 acres of crops that had escaped locust damage. On top of all this is the coronavirus lockdown, both in East Africa and in Pakistan.
Barnabas has fed more than 200,000 hungry Christians struggling to survive the relentless locust plague in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Pakistan.
“Thanks to people who have a loving heart to provide such timely assistance,” said Kenyan Christian, Helen. She explained that children and the elderly were suffering the most in her village before Barnabas’ food aid arrived. The maize, beans, oil and salt cost £12 ($15; €13) for each hungry family.
Barnabas has provided food parcels to the most vulnerable Christian Pakistani farming families in southern Sindh province, which was particularly badly hit by the locust invasion. A typical food parcel includes flour, rice, dhal (lentils), tea, sugar, chilli, salt, cooking oil, toothpaste and soap.