AU warns locust infestation to become continental plague unless prompt reaction taken

Photo taken on Feb. 4, 2020 shows a cloud of locusts flying in Mwingi North, Kenya. A number of East African countries are suffering serious locust infestation, with Kenya experiencing its worst in 70 years, which, if left unchecked, could grow 500 times in scale by June, a UN spokesman said Friday. Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said besides Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are undergoing their worst locust infestation in 25 years, and that Djibouti, Eritrea, Uganda and Tanzania are also experiencing swarm activity and locust breeding, while the risk of spread to South Sudan is high. (Xinhua/Fred Mutune)

Reiterating deep concern over the desert locust upsurge since June 2019 and the continued invasion affecting several East African countries, the African Union (AU) has warned that it would become a continental plague if prompt reaction is not taken.

In its latest meeting, the Peace and Security Council of the 55-member pan-African bloc has expressed deep concern over the desert locust upsurge since June 2019 and the continued invasion affecting several countries in the continent including Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda, which has resulted an unprecedented threat to food and economic security, according to an AU statement on Thursday.

The UN and other international organizations have also warned earlier that the desert locust breeding would continue in the Horn of Africa, causing locusts to increase further in the countries of the sub-region with new swarms forming in the months from March and April.

In its recent statement the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that as the world battles COVID-19, farmers in East Africa are facing another devastating desert locut outbreak.

The ICRC has expressed fear that the new swarms could spark widespread crop loss and deepen already serious levels of food insecurity, especially in places reeling from conflict or violence.

“The outbreak of desert locusts cannot be forgotten in the race against COVID-19,” said John Karongo, the regional agronomist for the ICRC, based in Nairobi. “Farmers in East Africa are entering their most important planting season as new swarms are beginning to hatch. We have to act now to avert the worst.”

The AU Peace and Security Council has also warned of a predictable invasion also targeting the western and northern regions of the African continent, especially given that the rainy season in the western and Sahel regions, during the third quarter of the year, constitutes conducive conditions for the reproduction of locusts.

The council has expressed deep concern over the potential of the desert locust infestation to become a continental plague with debilitating impact on the humanitarian situation which could result in more suffering, displacement, and possible inter-communal violence particularly, among farmers and pastoralists.

In this regard, the council has warned that failure to control the current infestations risks amplifying and spreading the infestation to the whole continent.

It has underlined on the importance of a prompt reaction to the arrival of the first locust infestations in order to reduce their level of propagation and reproduction, thereby helping to reduce their environmental and economic risks in Africa.

The council has urged sustained measures to curb the spread and increase of the locusts infestation through effective surveillance and control operations using both aerial and ground application of pesticides.

The council has commended the East African bloc, IGAD, for its relentless efforts deployed in response to the desert locust infestation in the region, including provision of early warning forecasts to assist the member states in their efforts to fight and curb the spread of the locusts and mitigate the impact on agriculture and food security in general.

The council has also hailed the establishment of an IGAD Special Taskforce to consolidate joint response efforts with the Desert Locust Control Organization for East Africa (DLCO), Country Risk Services (CRS) and FAO, as well as developing the Desert Locust Impact Assessment Methodology and Tools.

It has also welcomed the work done by the Desert Locust Control Committee in North and West Africa (CLCPNOA) to tackle this scourge in terms of preventive measures and research efforts for sustainable solutions.

The council urged enhanced collaboration towards eradicating the desert locust infestation, among others, through aerial spraying of pesticides in the affected countries, in order to prevent a regional and possibly a continental plague with negative impact on agriculture, food and economic security. Enditem

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