Uganda scrambled to respond to the arrival of the biggest locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in decades, while the United Nations warned Monday that “we simply cannot afford another major shock” to an already vulnerable region. An emergency government meeting hours after the locusts were spotted inside Uganda on Sunday decided to deploy military forces to help with ground-based pesticide spraying, while two planes for aerial spraying will arrive as soon as possible, a statement said.
Aerial spraying is considered the only effective control. The swarms of billions of locusts have been destroying crops in Kenya, which hasn’t seen such an outbreak in 70 years, as well as Somalia and Ethiopia, which haven’t seen this in a quarter-century. The insects have exploited favourable wet conditions after unusually heavy rains, and experts say climate change is expected to bring more of the same. Keith Cressman, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organizations senior locust forecasting officer, said Kenya has received “waves and waves of swarms” since the beginning of the year from the Horn of Africa, and “over the weekend they moved on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro across the border into Tanzania.” “Also over the weekend they moved into northeastern Uganda,” he told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York.
“We’re expecting any day they will move across the border into the southeast corner of South Sudan,” where another several million people face hunger as the country struggles to emerge from civil war. A medium-size swarm of locusts can eat the same amount of food as the entire population of Kenya, Cressman said, and “that swarm in one day can eat the same amount of food as everybody here in the tri-state area, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. So not taking action in time — you can see the consequences.”
U.N. officials warn that immediate action is needed before more rainfall in the weeks ahead brings fresh vegetation to feed new generations of locusts. If left unchecked, their numbers could grow up to 500 times before drier weather arrives, they say. “There is the risk of a catastrophe,” U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told a briefing in New York on Monday, warning that 13 million people already face severe food insecurity — 10 million in places affected by locusts — and the region can’t afford another jolt. AP
Southwest Asia and the Red Sea area also affected
Numerous desert locust swarms have been breeding in India, Iran and Pakistan since June 2019. And some have migrated to southern Iran where recent heavy rains have nurtured a breeding ground that could generate swarms in the spring. Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are also seeing substantial breeding activity that could see locust bands expand into swarms in the coming months, FAO added. The agency concluded that it stands ready to leverage its expertise and facilitate a coordinated response. UN
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are dealing with desert locust swarms of “unprecedented size and destructive potential” that could spill over into more countries in East Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Monday. Destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of crops, the outbreak is impacting the region’s food insecurity. The UN agency urged for a collective campaign to deal with the crisis, concerned over the risk that the swarms spill over into more countries in East Africa, “if efforts to deal with the voracious pest are not scaled up across the region”. South Sudan and Uganda are not currently affected but are at risk. The Big Wobble
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