It was a clear December day in northern Kenya when, suddenly, a black carpet filled the sky.
Locals knew they were coming: After a period of ideal breeding conditions in 2019, swarms of desert locusts emerged and began making their way through East Africa, infesting thousands of acres of land and ravaging staple crops and livelihoods along the way. Known for their destructive nature, a swarm can contain up to 200 billion desert locusts, which can eat the same amount of food as 84 million people in a single day. By early February, swarms had reached Uganda, rapidly spreading across the eastern districts.
While control efforts are underway, both Kenya and Uganda are limited in their capacity to respond to the rapid formation and multiplication of dense locust swarms. Additionally, impacted communities were unprepared to respond to a crisis of this magnitude and the families living in these areas have received little government support. In the affected communities, rates of malnutrition were already high after several years of periodic drought and flooding. Now, due to the locusts, the livelihoods and food security of over 19 million people are at risk.
During emergencies, the stress on livelihoods and food security particularly affects children, as parents’ ability to provide adequate care is compromised. Children are often subjected to increased violence and exploitation, removed from school in order to assist with income-generating activities or left unattended because their parents had to migrate for work.
With more than 80 years of experience empowering, protecting and bettering the lives of children around the globe, ChildFund is uniquely positioned to address these issues. Here are a few examples of how we are responding to the ongoing desert locust emergency in Eastern Africa.
Improving Food Security and Nutrition
In Kenya, ChildFund will distribute nutritious food and cooking supplies to 60 ECD centers six times throughout the 2020 school year, reaching 8,000 children under-5.
In both Kenya and Uganda, ChildFund will identify a total of 3,500 households whose crops and pastures have been destroyed by the locusts. We will provide these families with cash transfers for up to 12 months, which they can then use to purchase urgently needed items, such as food or medicine. All payments will be made via existing financial service providers to ensure that all transfers are as secure and efficient as possible.
ChildFund will distribute farming packages to 3,740 farming families in Kenya and Uganda who have been impacted by the swarms. The contents of the packages will vary based on location and need, but may include peas, beans, maize and other seeds. We will also link these farmers to local government agencies, which can provide technical assistance for improved crop production.
To assist livestock herders, ChildFund will distribute 75,000 bales of hay for their goats and cows. All recipients will be encouraged to put out sufficient quantities of hay for the animals on a daily basis, while properly storing the remaining feed to protect it from locusts. We will also provide 500 identified families with seeds to reestablish their destroyed pastures once the invasion has ended. In Kenya, we will train 240 farmers on animal husbandry – breeding and caring for farm animals – and livestock disease prevention, before providing them with equipment and treatment for disease prevention and control. Finally, we will train 320 youth on entrepreneurship, including financial management and leadership skills, and help them to form and manage Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), which serve as a way for participants to access loans from their own pooled savings.
Providing Access to Clean Water and Sanitation
Improving food security in the impacted communities also depends on access to clean water. Thus, ChildFund will provide 60 ECD centers in Kenya with 60 storage tanks and an initial supply of 10,000 liters of water. We will continue delivering supplies of clean water on a monthly basis until the start of the rainy season in July.
We will also provide 2,000 pregnant or breast-feeding women in the target communities with plastic jugs for collecting and storing water. These women and their families, as well as the 60 ECD centers, will also receive purification packets to ensure their water is potable.
Protecting Children and Youth
To develop local officials’ capacity to protect children during times of emergency, ChildFund will train 240 representatives on child protection standards and actions that should be taken to protect children during such situations. We will work to strengthen community-based child protection systems by training representatives on how to map and monitor child protection risks. Officials will then be responsible for conducting home visits to at risk households and for referring children to relevant services as necessary.
Raising Awareness and Improving Emergency Response
In both Kenya and Uganda, ChildFund will organize community awareness-raising campaigns on the desert locust invasion. We will work with local experts and officials from each country’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) to educate locals on how they can minimize the locusts’ impact and how they can prepare for future emergencies.
ChildFund will also assist national and local government officials in responding to the locust invasion, while seeking to improve information-sharing, monitoring and response practices. Finally, we will work with the MoAs and the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) to train officials from Kenya and Uganda on environmentally safe tools and strategies to control insects and associated diseases.
Desert locusts travel fast. Guided by the wind, they can travel 100 kilometers per day, destroying crops and pastures and leaving entire families and communities without their source of income or food. ChildFund is committed to working to protect the children and families impacted by this crisis, but we need your help.
We ask you today to join us by donating to help us respond to the desert locusts in East Africa. Thank you in advance for your invaluable gift toward helping children resume their journey toward a brighter future.