Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

Speeches & Transcripts May 21, 2020

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass during Press Call on the Emergency Locust Response Program

Good to be on with everybody, thanks to the people that are joining the call. I hope you and your families are staying well during this challenging time.

Yesterday, I had the privilege to announce that the Bank is helping 100 countries with the mitigation of COVID-19. The crisis is monumental. Our estimate is that up to 60 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic and the shutdown of the economies in the developed world.

As you know, COVID-19 isn’t the only crisis. Countries are dealing with a double crisis in East Africa, that includes the worst locust outbreak in decades. It's spreading across the Middle East and South Asia, decimating people's livelihoods, devouring food sources along the way. Several of the countries affected by locusts are among the world's poorest and most fragile. The epicenter for the outbreak is the Horn of Africa. It's already home to twenty-two and a half million people that are severely food insecure. Without action to control the spread, the locust swarms will damage the food systems that are critical in feeding and employing millions of people. They often are the power underneath the region’s economies.

Households and families are struggling to meet their basic needs. Nutrition, health care and education may end up being neglected. And that hinders long term health and development, especially for children.

Our estimate is that the potential damage to the crops and livestock, just in the Horn of Africa, could reach US$8 billion or above, US$8.5 billion dollars in 2020 alone.

The region could face a humanitarian emergency. There are more than 3 million farmers and pastoralists and people living in rural areas who have experienced financial strain and severe food insecurity.

So today, we're announcing that we're ramping up the financing and the technical assistance to the countries that are affected by the crisis.

The World Bank Group has approved what is called the Emergency Locust Response Program. The initial package is US$500 million—that is support for the countries controlling the locust swarms, and also preventing future outbreaks. It will help affected households survive and ultimately overcome the locust crisis.

Our response prioritizes emergency assistance in the form of social protection and livelihood programs. In the immediate term, this includes cash transfers to help families meet their basic needs. And then it will be followed by seed and fodder packages to help farmers and their communities—the pastoral communities—restore their livelihoods and care for the animals and their livelihoods.

The program also supports desert locust management efforts by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is already working with affected countries on the swarms themselves and it is done safely and effectively.

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

I’m very happy that the World Bank Group can be delivering to clients coping with COVID-19, and now, at the same time, a double crisis, the locust crisis. We will continue with what we are doing: wide-ranging, broad, fast action to help countries as they work to surmount the crises.

Also, yesterday I was very pleased to be able to announce that Carmen Reinhart will be joining the World Bank Group as Chief Economist.

So, we have had three pieces of forward news this week: the 100 programs, Carmen Reinhart and the locust regional support program that we are talking about today.

Thank you very much. Thanks David.

And I want to thank Holger and Rob for all their work, and their teams. It has been a big group effort in the World Bank, but also, very importantly, with other international organizations and, very, very importantly, with the countries themselves. So it is a big team effort.



Press release: World Bank Announces $500 Million to Fight Locusts, Preserve Food Security and Protect Livelihoods