THE NEUTRAL ZONE
With coronavirus still taking a significant toll in many countries across the globe, African nations have been fighting multiple plagues on multiple fronts. Today, the WHO has officially announced the end of the worst Ebola outbreak in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The worst outbreak on record occurred in West Africa, claiming 11,000 lives between 2014 and 2016. This particular outbreak was active in the northeastern region of the DRC since 2018, killing at least 2,280 people. The first case was announced on June 1 in Mbandaka and has since claimed 13 lives.
However, news has also surfaced regarding the beginning of a new Ebola outbreak, which scientists say is caused by a different strain of Ebola. As the shift in focus now turns towards this new outbreak, additional challenges are arising as doctors and medical staff, face violent attacks from those they are trying to save.
While areas of West Africa are facing a possible second wave of Ebola, East Africans are dealing with a plague of crop-destroying locusts. Countries like Kenya and other nations in the Horn of Africa could be subjected to starvation as a result. Kenya is facing its worst locust outbreak in 70 years, and Somalia is dealing with its worst in 25. Locusts can reportedly eat their weight in food every day, and while they only live for a few months on average, they breed very quickly, which can prolong locust plagues for up to a decade. These insects are expected to head west as the wind changes, which could place more pressure on the Congolese while they attempt to quell this new spike in Ebola cases. Without proper intervention, millions could face starvation.
“Locusts are putting 5 million people at risk of starvation – and that’s without COVID-19” – Image: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Why locusts are descending on East Africa – Vox – 6/24/2020
A small locust swarm can eat more food than 35,000 people. But some swarms in the area have grown to more than 2,000 times that size. Billions of insects have formed swarms so thick that airplanes have been forced to divert their course. Some areas in Ethiopia have reported nearly a 100 percent loss in vital crops. And controlling the locusts has been especially difficult alongside the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions put in place to fight it.
400 billion locusts exterminated but threat to East African food supplies remains – The National – 6/26/2020
“Tens of thousands of hectares of cropland and pasture have already been damaged across the Horn and East Africa,” the International Rescue Committee said in a report this month, noting that even a small swarm could devour the same amount of food in a day as about 35,000 people. In Ethiopia between January and April, locusts destroyed 1.3 million hectares of grazing land and nearly 200,000 hectares of crops, resulting in the loss of 350,000 tonnes of cereals, IGAD, the East Africa regional organisation, said in a June report.
Congo’s Deadliest Ebola Outbreak Is Declared Over – New York Times – 6/25/2020
Efforts to fight the outbreak in eastern Congo were hampered by mistrust from community members, feuds between government officials, attacks on health care facilities and the emergence of new hot spots. The announcement came even as the country contended with the world’s largest measles epidemic as well as the coronavirus pandemic.
Ebola in Congo: It’s over, but it’s not over – The New Humanitarian – 6/25/2020
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s deadliest ever Ebola outbreak was officially declared over on Thursday, but aid groups have warned that flare-ups are still possible, and that a new outbreak in the northwest is testing the capacity of responders.
Amy Maxmen on Twitter, 6/25/2020: A big lesson from the #Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC is that vaccines & drugs aren’t simple solutions. Same goes for COVID. This was the first outbreak that had them at scale, and yet the outbreak had a 66% mortality rate & went on for 2 years.
TRF Climate on Twitter, 6/26/2020: In parts of East Africa, droughts and floods, plus a major locust invasion on top of #COVID19 “are really weakening communities, putting pressure on state capability and displacing people”, warns Raychelle Awuor Omamo of #Kenya
Matina Stevis-Gridneff on Twitter, 6/26/2020: If you want to really understand the locust plague hitting East Africa, you *must* watch this @VICE program by @JCSteers — another kind of front line in this strange & scary year
Christos Christou on Twitter, 6/26/2020: We’re relieved to know that the 10th deadliest #Ebola outbreak in history is over. For nearly two years, our teams at @MSF and other partner orgs have been hard at work in #DRCongo to treat patients & support local health facilities.