Sunday, 27 September, 2020

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

FAO | Forecast on the desert locust upsurge in the Greater Horn of Afric FAO | Forecast on the desert locust upsurge in the Greater Horn of Afric
Deanna Wagner | 15 February, 2020, 01:05

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Sunday that nymph (baby) desert locusts maturing in Somalia's rebel-held backcountry, where aerial spraying is next to unrealizable, will develop wings in the "next three or four weeks" and threaten millions of people already short of food.

"The response today is not gonna work, unless there's a big scale-up", Lowcock said.

Desert locusts usually form swarms under heavy rains, creating a mass of hungry insects that can cross continents and seas in search of food.

To combat the swarms, Ugandan authorities said they have transported pesticides to affected areas. However, he also added that the organisation is expecting any day the locusts will move across the border into the southeast corner of South Sudan.

A colleague at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) tells a terrifying story about the desert locust.

For the past few months, billions of desert locusts swarmed across eastern Africa-mainly affecting Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, with indication they were likely to spread further.

So far, only around $20 million has been received; roughly half of which came from a United Nations emergency fund. Cressman further stated that if the locusts are not treated by control measures, they can grow 400 times larger by June 2020.

The locusts have plagued a number of countries since the start of the year, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya, and crossed the border into Uganda over the weekend.

FAO director-general Qu Dongyu warned in a video message: 'Without rapid action, we will be facing a rapidly expanding humanitarian crisis.

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The UN has asked for $76 million in immediate aid. 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 United States said it has released 800,000 dollars (£620,000) and the European Union has released one million euros (£845,000).

Cressman also said the United Nations is to test drones equipped with mapping sensors and atomizers to spray pesticides in a bid to save crops.

"Nobody's ever done this with desert locusts before".

We talk to Abdinoor Ole Hussein in Kenya.

'We have not used drones before, but I think it's worth testing them as they could help'. "They [locusts] are spreading like wildfire, so they are a real, major threat".

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock spoke to African ambassadors during a briefing at UN Headquarters on the severity of the issue earlier this week.

The swarm of desert locusts, which usually live solitary lives until a combination of conditions promotes breeding and leads them to form massive swarms, began in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia past year before spreading through both countries and travelling down to Kenya.