Food insecurity, conflict deteriorate Ethiopia’s humanitarian situation

The resurgence of the worst invasion of desert locusts in Ethiopia’s history is raising hunger levels amidst continued conflict in the Tigray region and the COVID-19 pandemic, where Ethiopia faces the highest number of cases in the Horn of Africa, says International Rescue Committee (IRC).

At least 1 million Ethiopians have suffered crop losses due to the locust outbreaks and the loss of crops and animal pasture has contributed to 11 million Ethiopians being forecast to go hungry in the first half of 2021. Children are especially vulnerable. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling for unfettered, impartial access to affected populations and increased support in the fight against locusts for already vulnerable population battles increasing food insecurity.

“The resurgence of locusts in Ethiopia is raising hunger levels both within Ethiopia, the epicenter of the largest such outbreak in decades, and in the larger Eastern African region. Locusts have caused many farmers within the region to lose their crops as well as pasture for their animals,” said George Readings, IRC Lead crisis analyst.

“Unusually good summer rains led to numerous new swarms forming in October and this resurgence will further increase food insecurity in the region. Children are particularly affected; the number of children admitted to health facilities for Severe Acute Malnutrition already reached record levels in 2020.”

“The conflict in the country’s Tigray region is making it more difficult to proceed with efforts to control the locust invasion whilst also restricting access for humanitarians to support the most vulnerable in the country where 21.3 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. The economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have left many unable to afford or access food. Efforts to control the locust swarms are underway. With more funding, IRC can scale up support for Ethiopians facing hunger as well as continue the fight against the locust invasion.”

Following multiple humanitarian shocks over the last year, Ethiopia appears amongst the top 5 emergencies to watch in 2021 in IRC’s Emergency Watchlist. The IRC is calling for a halt to the fighting, respect for International Humanitarian Law including unfettered and impartial access for humanitarians to deliver life-saving assistance and freedom of movement for refugees and other populations in need to access aid and services.

The IRC has been working in Ethiopia since 1999 implementing emergency and development work in rural communities and 21 refugee camps, reaching clients through programs in environmental health, health, education, child protection, economic recovery and development, and women’s protection and empowerment in six regions across the country.