A problem of biblical proportion is munching its way across East Africa. The UN warns of regional famine as desert locusts devour and destroy, moving in swarms the size of major cities. What are desert locusts? “I’m 35 years old and I’ve never heard of any invasion like [this]. It’s new to all of us; it has never occurred [here] for the past 25 years,” Compassion International’s Girum Getachew tells MNN. Getachew serves as Public Relations Specialist for Compassion Ethiopia.
“In one kilometer square [of a locust swarm] you find 150 million individual locusts, and it destroys what 35,000 people can eat per day.”
Desert locusts usually fly with the wind and can travel more than 150 km in a day.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Compassion and its local church partners are meeting needs in Christ’s name. Learn more here.
Desert locusts add insult to injury
If not contained, desert locusts can quickly spread to South Sudan and Uganda in the weeks to come. As explained here, the outbreak primarily affects Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya right now. According to the World Food Program, the upcoming rainy season would prompt another breeding cycle and the crisis could spread even further. Between 13 and 25 million people in the region already suffer from severe food shortages. Now, locusts are destroying any vegetation left standing. The laws of supply and demand lead to drastic price increases on basic food items, putting a strain on struggling families. “Compassion works with the poorest of the poor; most of them are highly vulnerable to any ‘shocks’ (disasters) happening in the country. So, when this disaster is coupled with other types of disaster, the impact will be very huge,” Program Support Specialist Tewodros Gebremeskel says. In eastern Ethiopia, desert locusts began wreaking havoc in November, wiping out much of the seasonal harvest. Heavy rainfall followed, destroying anything left behind by the locusts. More about that here.
Through Compassion’s Disaster Relief Fund, believers have helped 70 of the most-affected children and families in Jarsso Town. Leaders expect to provide further support in the weeks ahead. Compassion works with local church partners in Ethiopia to meet physical needs while sharing the hope of Christ. “While the (food) distribution is happening, we also [share] the Word of God so that they can hear the real Gospel,” Getachew says. Learn more about Compassion’s work in Ethiopia here.
How to help
Experts expect the locust invasion to worsen in coming weeks as new hatchlings join existing swarms. “Currently, we are praying that God may intervene in the situation and stop the expansion of the locusts,” Gebremeskel says.
“Unless God intervenes in this situation, we cannot manage and mitigate the disaster.”
Join in praying for immediate locust relief. Ask the Lord to intervene and have mercy upon highly-vulnerable populations. Pray church partners will have wisdom and discernment concerning aid distribution and needs assessment.