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)

The Ethiopian government has braced itself against the ongoing desert locust invasion amid widespread international appeal to avert looming desert locust-inflicted food insecurity across the Horn of Africa (HoA) region and beyond.

Ethiopia, being one of the three highly desert locust-affected countries together with neighboring Kenya and Somalia, has stressed that it is boosting efforts to contend the ongoing desert locust invasion as the concurrent locust infestation threatened tens of thousands of hectares of arable land in the East African country.

Zebdewos Selato, Plant Protection Director at the Ethiopia Ministry of Agriculture, told journalists on late Friday that the locust invasion, which has affected large parts of the country, is coming from two directions, mainly from Ethiopia’s eastern neighbor Somalia and from the country’s southern neighbor Kenya.

As the East African country enters into its February-May rainfall and harvesting season, known locally as Belg, the fight against locust invasion has taken an important dimension, with an ultimate goal of preserving the vegetation being planted across Ethiopia’s major crop-producing areas from the desert locust devastation.

“With the onset of the Belg season, locust swarms pose a danger to crops that are currently being planted,” Selato said, as he emphasized that the desert locust swarms threat is especially acute in parts of Ethiopia’s Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Southern, as well as Afar regional states.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the ongoing desert locust invasion across different parts of Ethiopia “is further compounding the humanitarian landscape” in the country, in which the desert locust infestation has so far affected some 180 Woredas (local administrative districts) across the country.

Noting that some 17.8 million people are living in areas affected by the desert locust as of mid-January, the UNOCHA in its latest humanitarian update issued on Friday also stressed that an ongoing assessment will provide an overview of the impact of the desert locust infestation on food security and livelihoods by mid-March.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) is presently applying aerial sprays as well as ground-based efforts to avert the adverse food security threat posed by the dangerous pest, while regional administrations have been also mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers to join the fight against the locust invasion.

Amid the regional desert locust outbreak, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on Thursday warned that locust invasion could further exacerbate the already dire food insecurity situation across the region, in which some 20.2 million people are already facing severe acute food insecurity in the affected East African countries that are Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

“Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people have been facing high levels of food insecurity across the east African region, long challenged by periodic droughts and floods,” the FAO had said.

Noting that about 1 million hectares of land has been targeted for rapid locust surveillance and control in the eight affected countries, the FAO also said that 110,000 households have been also targeted for rapid livelihoods protection in seven of the eight countries.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) had also on Thursday issued a serious warning for the global community that the “grossly underfunded humanitarian responses across East Africa are tipping towards breaking point as a result of the recent desert locust invasion.”

“A humanitarian catastrophe is looming in East Africa if funding to tackle the locust invasion is not secured now,” the NRC said.

The NRC’s statement also came on the backdrop of the FAO’s urgent call for the same cause, as it recently emphasized that a “food crisis is looming” across East Africa, unless resources are not forthcoming, and has appealed to the international community for an additional 62 million U.S. dollars funding on top of the 76 million U.S. dollars that was requested last month. Enditem

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