UN warns of 'major shock' as Africa locust outbreak spreads

Clay Curtis
February 15, 2020

"There are 30 million people in the affected countries - Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, who are severely food insecure. I ask the worldwide community to respond with speed and generosity to ensure an effective response and control the infestation while we still have the chance", he said while in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Saturday, according to Xinhua News Agency.

FAO, which leads global efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security, said there were reports that desert locusts arrived in northeast Uganda while other reports indicated that they had crossed the border into northern Tanzania close to Mt. Kilimanjaro, reaching Arusha and Mushi. That makes it hard or impossible to conduct aerial spraying to kill the insects.

Swarms crossed into Uganda overnight, and Tanzania and South Sudan are now "on the watch list", Lowcock said earlier in the day while briefing relevant ambassadors about the infestation situation.

"This year there is a twin danger of swarm invasion from Iran and as well as from the Horn of Africa", FAO's Senior Locust Forecasting Officer Keith Cressman told IANS on Monday. The locust terror began in East Africa after heavy rains at the end of past year.

So far, only around $20 million (R297 million) has been received. United Nations reports indicate that locusts can reproduce rapidly and, if left unchecked, current numbers could grow 500 times by June. This is a big threat to the crops, it can be gauged from this that a medium-sized herd can eat the food of the entire population of Kenya in a day. "The Desert Locust swarms are growing exponentially", FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu warned in a video message.

The UN has asked for £58.5million in immediate aid. "So not taking action in time - you can see the consequences", Cressman said.

Officials in Kenya say drones could play an important role given the limited number of aircraft.

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He said: 'Nobody's ever done this with desert locusts before'.

We talk to Abdinoor Ole Hussein in Kenya.

For starters, the government has already hired two locust spraying planes from the Addis Ababa-based Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa, and one of Zambia-based International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa.

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for more help from the rest of the world.

Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian chief, also underscored the urgent need for action, particularly as the rainy season begins in March.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, which is also facing its worst locust attack in decades, has declared national emergency to tackle the insects destroying crops on a large scale in Punjab province, country's main region for agricultural production.

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