E. African countries overwhelmed as locust plague spreads, UN warns

Wednesday February 12 2020

locusts

Locusts in a farm in central Kenya on February 1, 2020. The locust plague spreading throughout East Africa will cause further deprivation in the region already considered “severely food insecure,” United Nations specialists say. PHOTO | ALEX NJERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By The EastAfrican

The locust plague spreading throughout East Africa will cause further deprivation for 14 million people in the region already considered “severely food insecure,” United Nations specialists warned on Monday.

The officials urged donors to quickly reach a target of $76 million needed to control the invasion. Only about $21 million has been contributed since the alert was issued more than two weeks ago.

Swarms of locusts have reached Kenya from Somalia, UN humanitarian affairs director Mark Lowcock said at a press briefing in New York.

These insects have the capacity to eat as much food in one day as do 84 million people, Mr Lowcock noted.

“They eat everything. They're omnivorous,” said UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) official Keith Cressman.

“One swarm can eat the same amount of food as the entire population of Kenya,” he added.

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Describing locusts as “the most dangerous migratory pest in the world,” Mr Cressman added that they have recently entered Tanzania and Uganda are expected to arrive soon in South Sudan.

“These countries are trying to do their best, but their capacities are overwhelmed,” said FAO director of emergencies Dominique Burgeon.

Al-Shabaab's control of some locust breeding grounds in Somalia is said to have made aerial spraying there virtually impossible.

Mr Burgeon said, however, that the UN will strive to carry out locust-control efforts in all infested areas.

“We are committed to negotiating access wherever possible,” he told reporters at UN headquarters.

Climate change is one of the reasons for the worst infestation in East Africa in living memory, humanitarian affairs chief Lowcock said.

An increased number of cyclones in the Indian Ocean has provided more pasturage in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn for locusts to eat and consequently breed in record numbers, he explained.

“It's another dimension of the climate emergency.”

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