Home 54° Across Africa Coronavirus is not the only major problem East Africa has now

Coronavirus is not the only major problem East Africa has now

epaselect epa08158445 A local farmer Theophilus Mwendwa runs through a swarm of desert locusts to chase them away in the bush near Enziu, Kitui County, some 200km east of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, 24 January 2020. Large swarms of desert locusts have been invading Kenya for weeks, after having infested some 70 thousand hectares of land in Somalia which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has termed the 'worst situation in 25 years' in the Horn of Africa. FAO cautioned that it poses an 'unprecedented threat' to food security and livelihoods in the region. EPA-EFE/DAI KUROKAWA

East African economies are already suffering from the worst infestation of desert locusts in 70 years, and the coronavirus is adding pepper to fresh wounds.

The region was already looking to a perfect economic 2020 prior to the locust outbreak – which threatens the food security and livelihoods of 25 million people and has required emergency funding of its own from the UN and international governments.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that the “unprecedented” situation remains “extremely alarming,” especially in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form.

The UN estimates that conducive breeding conditions could see the locusts multiply by 400 times this year, decimating crops in a region which relies on agriculture for roughly one-third of its gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 65% of its employment.

Now, a combination of trade and production shocks resulting from the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the economic and medical challenges of trying to combat the pandemic itself, will likely compound these problems.

CNBC

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