FAO steps up anti-desert locust operations in East Africa

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 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said Monday its anti-desert locust operation will continue in all affected countries in East Africa amid swarms invasion in Kenya.

FAO said that immature swarms continue to migrate southwards from breeding areas in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia to southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya amid reports that a few immature swarms reached Mwanga district in northeast Tanzania on Jan. 8.

“In Kenya, immature swarms continue to arrive and spread throughout the north. So far, swarms are present in four counties (Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit and, most recently, Isiolo). Breeding continues, and hopper bands are present in the southeast near Taita Taveta and along the coast,” FAO said in its latest desert locust situation update.

In Ethiopia, the UN food agency said, immature swarms are concentrating along the eastern side of the Harar Highlands in Oromia region as they move to southern areas of the country, including southern parts of the Rift Valley in SNNP region.

According to FAO, there are also cross-border movements near Jijiga and northwest Somalia and along the southern border with Kenya.

“All countries should maintain maximum efforts in conducting the necessary survey and control operations to reduce migration and breeding,” it said.

FAO said mature swarms are present in northwest Somalia and breeding is in progress on the coast where hopper bands have formed.

It said breeding also continues in the northeast where numerous hopper bands are concentrated between Iskushuban and Bosaso.

“Breeding may also be underway in other areas on the northern plateau that received heavy rains from cyclone Gati,” said FAO.

According to the UN agency, as conditions are dry in some areas where the swarms are arriving, they are expected to disperse throughout southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

It warned that there is a moderate risk that a few swarms could reach central Kenya and perhaps the southwest as well as northeast Tanzania, eastern Uganda, and southeast South Sudan during January.

“Once swarms arrive in favorable areas, they will mature and lay eggs that will hatch and cause hopper bands to form during February and March,” FAO said.

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