Locust situation to worsen in Greater Horn of 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)

UN humanitarian workers expect a rapid deterioration of the Desert Locust situation in the Greater Horn of Africa, a UN spokesman said Friday.

There is widespread breeding, and new swarms are starting to form. As a result, this will pose an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods, as the next upsurge will coincide with the main cropping season across much of the region, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Aerial and ground locust control operations by governments are ongoing, with the support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and have reached thousands of hectares across the region, he said.

However, if the swarms are not fully contained, impacts on crops and forage will drive up hunger in areas already facing very high levels of food insecurity, Dujarric told a virtual press briefing. Some 42 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen are already facing severe food insecurity, he noted. The FAO locust appeal has been revised to include Sudan and Yemen and now calls for 153 million U.S. dollars, up from 138 million dollars, to support the response in 10 countries. As of Wednesday, 110 million dollars had been pledged, said the spokesman.

The current locust situation that affects East Africa and South Asia is the most severe infestation in 25 years. Dujarric said last week that these locusts, which reportedly eat their own body weight in food every single day, were breeding so rapidly that these already startling numbers could well grow 400-fold by June.

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