Northern Ethiopia has been devastated by drought over the last couple of years, as the first rejuvenated blades of grass appeared, the desert locusts arrived and began their consumption. This is causing devastating effects to communities who have very little food anyway and generating severe malnutrition.
In Ethiopia, the desert locust swarms are extremely large, to put this into context they fly up to 150kms in a day time. 1 KM² swarm will eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. In Ethiopia 544km² were initially infested by the desert locust, leaving catastrophic effects.
This is devastating for what are almost destitute communities, as their normal back-up coping mechanism of assisting each other is now barely possible, with so many animals having died due to lack of pasture combined with disease.
Sadly the locust story is not over, as predicted, the locusts are laying eggs for the second generation and are arriving in small swarms. The Regional Government is conducting a desert locust damage assessment. Meanwhile, the fear is there as the locusts literally strip the acacia trees of any foliage.
One mother from the Afar Region in northern Ethiopia expressed her heartache of no food, she told our partner organisation: “the previous night I had cheated my children by continually boiling water, telling them the food would cook soon, with the tireless exhaustion from crying, my children fell asleep.”
What is Ethiopiaid doing?
We are supporting our partner organisation on the ground to conduct nutritional screening in the affected communities on a house to house basis and concurrently treat all those found with severe and moderate malnutrition.
Given there is a shortage of moderate malnutrition supplementary food and being that the aspect of the pregnant and lactating mother is doubly serious in that, without treatment, the mother will give birth to and raise at best a child with growth stunting. There is a critical need to identify all pregnant and lactating mothers in the community with moderate malnutrition and treat them with supplementary food.
In parallel in the same community, treat all remaining animals and provide government supplied hay, so that the goats do not die and may even go on to produce household milk.
We need to assure disease prevention through awareness, provision of soap and water purifying chemicals to the most vulnerable households to prevent them getting an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea or other waterborne disease as they may well get with such low immunity and such challenging drought-stricken environment and little or no nutritional food.