Climate-fuelled La Niña in East Africa will drive millions into hunger, warns Oxfam ahead of UN Climate Action Summit

Climate-fuelled La Niña in East Africa will drive millions into hunger, warns Oxfam ahead of UN Climate Action Summit

  • Croplands the size of 56,000 Croke Park stadiums damaged by worst desert locust plague in half a century 
  • “I've never seen infestations like this before”  

Over 50 million people are in need of immediate food assistance in the Horn, East, and Central Africa, with numbers expected to rise as the region braces for harsh, climate fuelled La Niña conditions, Oxfam said today. The warning comes as world leaders prepare to meet for a virtual Climate Ambition Summit.  

From mid-December, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda are likely to suffer from below average rainfall because of a strong La Niña, which could push millions more people to hunger in 2021.

Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “The forecasted dry season will be the last straw for many, devastating their remaining crops and cutting their lifeline of food and income.

“Farmers, who make up almost 80 percent of the region’s population, have already been hit hard by severe floods, the worst desert locust plague in half a century - both supercharged by the climate crisis - as well as the economic fallout of COVID-19 pandemic.”

The climate crisis is already causing longer and more severe droughts across the Horn, East, and Central Africa region, and is likely to increase the frequency and strength of La Niña events. 

On top of this heavy rains in locust breeding grounds, again exacerbated by the climate crisis, have led to the biggest swarms in 70 years - killing livestock and causing food shortage. Since January, locusts have caused $8.5 billion worth of damage across the region - 100,000 hectares of cropland in Somalia, an estimated 200,000 hectares in Ethiopia and about 70,000 hectares in Kenya – for context, combined these croplands are the size of more than 56,000 Croke Park stadiums.

The infestation in Ethiopia is feared to be the worst on record at a time of the “meher” harvest, a crop that contributes 80 percent of the country’s total harvest. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, swarms are expected to move south in Somalia and Ethiopia, reaching northern Kenya from mid-December stretching to January. A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre of farmland.

Noor Maalim Abdi, a Kenyan farmer, said: “We used to have three meals a day, but with the locusts and COVID-19, not anymore.  For now, we sell our animals to sustain our families but with the curfews and lockdown it’s not easy. Our movement is restricted.” 

Abdilaahi Wayrah, a Somali farmer who works with Oxfam, said: "The locusts destroyed our crops at the time we were expecting to harvest. I've never seen infestations like this before, and the saddest thing was that we couldn't do anything about it. Then COVID-19 came, and because of the lockdown, seed and pesticides prices went up. We could not afford to buy these necessary things. We don't have enough food at the moment, but we're trying to rebuild again.” 

Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzanian were responsible for less than 0.2 percent of the global carbon emissions between 1990-2015 while the top 10 most polluting countries, including US, China and Japan were responsible for 500 times more carbon in the same period.

Clarken added: “The incredible resilience of the most vulnerable people across the Horn, East, and Central Africa is being tested to breaking point by a combination of disasters that are not of their making.

“Urgent action is needed to provide the assistance desperately needed by millions of people. 

“At the UN Climate Summit, world leaders must commit to more ambitious action to cut carbon emissions and prevent a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. Rich polluting industrial nations must also provide more climate finance for adaptation to help poor communities - and particularly farming communities - adapt to a changing climate. They should also commit to support vulnerable countries with new sources of international finance for loss and damage caused by more extreme and erratic weather.”

Oxfam and its partners are supporting more than 897,000 people in Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, and Tanzania with food, clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and seeds. Oxfam has also reached 3.5 million people in September and 2.6 million in October with Covid-related support. 

END

Contact

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org | 083 198 1869

Notes to Editors  

  • Croke Park Stadium is 6.5 hectares in size - the combined affected croplands in Somalia (100,000 hectares), Ethiopia (200,000 hectares)  and Kenya (70,000 hectares) are an estimated 370,000 hectares.
  • The total cumulative emissions between 1990-2015 of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda taken together amounted to only 0.89GtCO2. The 10 top emitting countries US, China, Japan, Russia, India, Germany, UK, Italy, Canada, France together emitted about 468GtCO2 over the 25-year period. 
  • The top 10 emitting countries in terms of cumulative emissions 1990-2015 were: US, China, Japan, Russia, India, Germany, UK, Italy, Canada, France. Together they emitted about 468GtCO2 over the 25 years period. 
  • Download Oxfam’s carbon inequality report HERE 
  • La Niña refers to cooler than usual ocean temperatures in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, which occurs on average every 3 - 7 years. It usually affects temperatures, precipitation, and storm patterns in many parts of the world. In East Africa, La Niña results in drier than usual seasons. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) the current La Niña event could last until 2021 and is expected to be moderate to strong.  
  • The climate crisis is causing longer and more severe droughts across the Horn, East, and Central Africa region, and is likely to increase the frequency and strength of La Niña events, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts. 
  • Source for agriculture population in East HERE Ethiopia is now the epicentre of the locust crisis. Swarms are moving both towards Somali region but also towards Eritrea and further north to eastern Sudan. If rains continue, we might have another generation developing with three generations breeding between now and April 2021 (FAO).  
  • The pandemic has been having a devastating impact on already fragile livelihoods and unstable economies in the region. Some of these impacts include reduced agricultural productivity, weak supply chains, increased cross border trade tensions, limited employment prospects. 
  • With just 1C of warming, the climate crisis is causing longer and more severe droughts across the Horn, East and Central Africa region, and is likely to increase the frequency and strength of La Niña events. Without urgent action scientists predict at least 3C of warming by the end of the century

 

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