As East African countries seek funds to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on its vulnerable populations, governments have racked up loans to deal with other threats like chronic diseases and natural disasters.
This week, the World Bank approved $500 million in grants and low-interest loans to combat the natural threat of a locust invasion in East Africa and some parts of the Middle East. Four of the hardest-hit countries—Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda—will receive $160 million immediately, to tackle the region’s worst invasion in 70 years.
Some of the money is earmarked for direct cash transfers to affected farmers for seed and animal fodder to help preserve food security in the coming years, World Bank officials said.
Other countries can apply for locust-prevention funding, even if they are not currently affected.
“Locust swarms present a double crisis for countries that are also battling the Covid-19 pandemic,” said World Bank Group president David Malpass while announcing the package on Thursday
“This food supply emergency combined with the pandemic and economic shutdown in advanced economies places some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at even greater risk.”
Kenya will receive Ksh4.6 billion ($46 million) to finance grants to an estimated 70,000 pastoral households and 20,000 farmers to quickly rehabilitate crop and livestock production systems disrupted by the locust swarms. Uganda will receive Ush5.1 billion ($1.35 million) to finance surveillance and control measures.
The World Bank has pledged $6 million to help Djibouti strengthen its regulatory framework and institutional capacity for early warning preparedness and response against future locust outbreaks, as well as provide cash transfers to affected households.
In addition to the scale-up of surveillance and control measures, Ethiopia will receive $63 million to provide seed and fertiliser packages to more than 150,000 farmers to ensure planting during the upcoming cropping season and, in pastoralist areas, emergency fodder to more than 113,000 households to safeguard their productive assets.
It will also finance interventions to protect and rehabilitate livelihoods through temporary employment programmes and activities that boost resilience, such as water and soil conservation, the adoption of agroforestry technologies and practices, and the build-out of market infrastructure.
Locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. It threatens food supplies in East Africa where nearly 23 million people are facing shortages.
The World Bank estimates the Horn of Africa region could suffer up to $8.5 billion in damage to crop and livestock production by year-end without broad measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread.
Mr Malpass said that 22.5 million people in the area already faced severe food insecurity and the locust infestations could put several more million people in danger.
The money from the World Bank, consisting of loans and grants, is intended to help countries mitigate the economic impact and prepare for future locust swarms.