Africa’s locust ‘crisis’: United Nations calls for urgent action

Nellie Chapman
February 15, 2020

"There is the risk of a catastrophe", UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock told the NY press conference, pointing out that 13 million people already face severe food insecurity, 10 million of them in places affected by locusts, the Guardian reported. "In the next three or four weeks, these nymphs, as we call them, will develop wings", Barca said on Thursday. "We're expecting, any day, they will move across the border into the southeast corner of South Sudan".

Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said specially developed prototypes would be tested that can detect swarms using special sensors and adapt their speed and height accordingly.

He added that unusually heavy rains and increase in the frequency in cyclones in the Indian Ocean have created favourable conditions for the locusts to breed.

Mark Lowcock, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said: 'In this region where there is so much suffering and so much vulnerability and fragility, we simply can not afford another major shock.

It is feared that a 40-mile-wide swarm of 360 billion locusts could grow 500 times bigger within the next four months.

The infestation in Kenya is the worst in 70 years, while Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing their worst outbreaks in 25 years, putting crop production, food security and millions of lives at risk, the United Nations said on its website. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu had warned that the locust upsurge threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis.

"One swarm can eat the same amount of food as the entire population of Kenya", he added. Without enough aerial spraying to stop the swarms, the locust outbreak could turn into a plague, "and when you have a plague, it takes years to control", he said.

The UN has asked for 76 million dollars (£59 million) in immediate aid.

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Met Office meteorologist Matthew Box said inland gusts could reach 50mph by Saturday afternoon. Cllr Humby added: "The forecast is for heavy rain this coming Saturday".

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

As per a desert locust expert, after Cyclone Mekunu in 2018 summers hit the middle east, rainwater was collected in parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

We talk to Abdinoor Ole Hussein in Kenya.

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

The United Nations has insisted they have protocols to help contain and monitor the problem across the countries.

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

The UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs called on the global community Monday to help East African countries affected by locust swarms, expressing his deep concern over the situation.

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