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World Bank commits $500m to deepen food security, protect livelihood in Africa

....Says potential losses to crop, livestock production could reach US$8.5 billion by Dec

The World Bank Group on Thursday approved US$500 million Emergency Locust Response Program (ELRP) to curb the spread of locust swarms threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in Africa and the Middle East.

The World Bank in a statement said that the Emergency Locust Response Program, will focus on providing immediate assistance to help poor and vulnerable farmers, herders, and rural households overcome one of the worst locust upsurges in decades.

Reports as at May 2020, shows that locust swarms infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia resulting in the biggest outbreak faced by some countries in 70 years.

The World Bank fears that favorable breeding conditions through May will likely result in a new round of swarms in late June and July, coinciding with the start of the harvest season.

“ELRP will provide immediate support to affected households through targeted social safety nets like cash transfers, while investing in the medium-term recovery of agriculture and livestock production systems and rural livelihoods in affected countries”, the World Bank said in a statement.

The first countries to be financed under the initial phase of the program are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, with a total financing package of US$160 million.

David Malpass, Bank Group President noted that the spread of locust swarms present a double crisis for countries that are also battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Together, 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.”

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, East Africa already has 22.5 million severely food insecure people and 10.8 million forcibly displaced people.

“The World Bank has estimated that, without broad-scale, coordinated control measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread to new areas, potential damages and losses to crop and livestock production and related assets in the greater Horn of Africa, including Yemen, could reach as high as US$8.5 billion by the end of this year”.

“By helping to mobilize a rapid response and more effective locust control measures, anticipated damages and losses will still be an estimated US$2.5 billion. This is why the ELRP will fund measures to protect livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable impacted by the locust crisis”.

The program, according to the statement also covers delivery of seed packages and other inputs to affected households to help restore farm production and livelihood as well as finance investments to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems so that countries are better prepared to combat future outbreaks.

“ELRP will employ a multi-phased programmatic approach that allows for the fast preparation of similar projects in the future. Financed through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, it makes available an initial US$500 million in financing for eligible countries to request support”.

“Its flexible financing package means that ELRP can expand quickly to new countries depending on where the locust swarms move. All countries eligible to receive IDA and IBRD resources can access support

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