UN releases fund to fight desert locust spread in Kenya

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 United Nations has appropriated 1.5 million U.S. dollars from its Central Emergency Response Fund to fight the possible spread of a desert locust infestation in Kenya, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, released the money to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Since Dec. 21, numerous swarms started to form in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia following Cyclone Gati,” Haq said.

“They have been entering into northeast Kenya and are likely to spread throughout northern and central counties.”

The funds are for desert locust control operations, including air and ground surveillance and pesticide spraying. “Our colleagues say that, if not controlled, the swarms could destroy crops and pasture and threaten the livelihoods and food security of 3.6 million people across the region and in Yemen, including 173,000 people in Kenya,” he said.

The FAO expects its locust response plan to run until June but urgently needs more funds to contain the threat from desert locusts in the region, the spokesman said.

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