Coronavirus Worsens the Worst Plague to Hit East Africa in Decades

Before the new coronavirus hit, local missionaries and the people they serve in the Horn of Africa were already suffering hunger from the worst plague of locusts in 70 years.

Food in short supply after swarms of locusts began devouring harvests toward the end of 2019 became even more scarce when coronavirus containment measures put the brakes on supply channels, the leader of a local ministry in Kenya said.

“The recent rise of coronavirus cases across my nation has heightened the emergency in the already locust-plagued rural areas where our ministry and outreaches are concentrated,” he said. “The effects of the lockdown and curfew have impacted livelihoods, food insecurity has threatened our ministry and our church plants, and the orphans’ and children’s programs have been affected so much by this crisis.”

Among the ministry’s church plants in 15 villages, 10 congregations and their pastors recently went without food for more than two weeks as the containment measures stopped movement of goods and supplies, he said. Laborers whose wages were too low to set aside any savings could not work just as the prices rose for any scant, available food.

A new, larger generation of billions of locusts emerging in East Africa this month is expected to devour mid-year harvests.

“The poor and elderly people in the villages are walking to some churches begging churches and pastors for basic foodstuffs for them, which the churches don’t have,” the ministry leader said, while thanking Christian Aid Mission donors for assistance that helped earlier in the year. “We are so grateful for your support for this April quarter that helped to address the emergency food, water and hygiene to the pastors and missionaries and members of our churches who had gone without food.”

The donations also enabled the ministry to provide seeds to four pastors for planting maize and beans, and workers were also able to deliver rice, beans, sugar, cooking oil and other food to more than 150 families, he said.

While locust swarms and coronavirus lockdowns have paralyzed supplies, conditions are even worse for villagers persecuted for their faith, he added.

“The poor and rural Christians in the villages are severely persecuted and often banished from the fields where they grow their food backside of curfews and lockdowns,” he said.

Voracious

A new, larger generation of billions of locusts is emerging in East Africa this month, expected to devour mid-year harvests and endangering a region where one-fifth of the world’s population of food-insecure people live, according to the United Nations.

“The current situation remains extremely alarming in East Africa, where Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia continue to face an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods,” the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization website states. “New swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June onwards, coinciding with the start of the harvest.”

The swarms have devoured staple crops such as teff, wheat and sorghum across the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. With 42 million people in Eastern Africa and Yemen facing food insecurity even before the locusts and coronavirus, according to the FAO, 150 million locusts in one square kilometer are devouring harvests equivalent to the food consumed daily by 35,000 people.

The swarms grew out of the cyclone season of 2018-2019, when heavy rains in Eastern Africa, Yemen and India led to at least three generations of undetected breeding at unprecedented levels, according to the U.N. The torrential rains led to lush greenery that caused locusts to gather and breed much more rapidly than usual.

The swarms that first hit in late 2019 laid eggs that began hatching and spreading by early April. The new generation was more voracious. Locust infestation has already left about 1 million people in Ethiopia in hunger, the FAO estimates.

Desperate Need

Local missionaries throughout eastern Africa are witnessing and experiencing the needs created by plague and pestilence. Among other needs, the ministry director in Kenya seeks enough assistance to feed about 750 people in Christ’s name.

“We also need hygiene products,” he said. “We need some soap and hand sanitizer with water tanks to reduce the effect of this disease and its spread.”

The closing of church services amid coronavirus lockdowns, coupled with church members’ unemployment, means many pastors are suddenly without income, he said.

“The pastors and their families are in desperate need of these supplies,” he said. “Pray for supernatural provision. We love you and thank you for being the hands and the feet of Jesus at this critical time we are living in.”

Local missionaries throughout the region are struggling to provide for their families, their congregations and the unreached people around them. Please consider a donation today to bring hope and healing to them and those they serve.

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