While the eyes of the world are on the novel coronavirus, East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Southwest Asia and Pakistan continues to struggle with another crisis of biblical proportions: growing swarms of ravenous locusts. Both crises are extraordinary in scale, and both foes multiply so quickly that governments are struggling to contain them. Torrential rain is causing a dramatic increase in locust numbers in East Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Yemen.
On January the 11th, 2019, the holiest site in Islam was swarmed by a plague of locusts, forcing cleaners into action to drive the insects out. The Great Mosque in Mecca, which hosts millions of Muslim pilgrims every year and is the holiest site in Islam was the birthplace of a plague which in just over 12 months would grow into billions, stretching from the western border of China sweeping through Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, through Arabia the Middle East, northern Africa and all the way down to Southern Africa. TBW. The numbers and size of the plagues are unfathomable, we are talking billions of the most ravenous beast known to man, just a small swarm can eat enough food to feed a city of 35,000 people. These swarms are currently invading the poorest and most food-insecure people on the planet and the swarms are expected to increase 5 fold by June.
Swarms have matured in East Africa after widespread rains that fell in late March are expected to cause a dramatic increase in locust numbers in the coming months.
EAST AFRICA The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as more swarms form and mature in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia and probably in Somalia. This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the beginning of the long rains and the planting season. Although ground and aerial control operations are in progress, widespread rains that fell in late March and early April will allow the new swarms to mostly stay in place, mature and lay eggs while a few swarms could move from Kenya to Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. During May, the eggs will hatch into hopper bands that will form new swarms in late June and July, which coincides with the start of the harvest.
● KENYA. More swarms are maturing and increasing in size in central and northern areas with some moving westwards; egg-laying is imminent.
● ETHIOPIA. Hopper bands and an increasing number of swarms are maturing in the south (SNNPR, Oromia); new swarms appeared in northern and southern Somali region.
● SOUTH SUDAN. A maturing swarm arrived in Magwi County on 8 April from Uganda.
ARABIAN PENINSULA The situation in Yemen continues and is likely to be deteriorating but no new information has been received and torrential rainfall is favouring the swarms.
● SAUDI ARABIA. Control continues against early and mid-instar bands near the Persian Gulf.
● OMAN. Late instar hopper groups, bands and a few small swarms seen laying eggs near UAE; control underway.
SOUTHWEST ASIA Spring breeding is underway. The situation in Iran continues to be serious and worrisome.
● IRAN. An increasing number of hopper bands continue to form along with the southern coast; a few swarms near Jask.
● PAKISTAN. Control continues against hopper groups in Baluchistan, Punjab, and near the Indian border; more adult groups forming in Baluchistan. Fao
● Cyclones in May and October brought heavy rains that gave rise to favourable breeding conditions in the Empty Quarter of the southern Arabian Peninsula for at least nine months since June 2018.
● As a result, three generations of breeding occurred that was undetected and not controlled.
● JANUARY: The first swarms hit Yemen and Saudi Arabia, reaching southwest Iran where heavy rains fell, helping the swarms to breed.
● FEBRUARY-JUNE: widespread spring breeding in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran caused large numbers of swarms to form. Control operations were less successful in Iran and Yemen.
● JUNE-DECEMBER: swarms invade the Indo-Pakistan border from Iran and up to three generations occur due to longer than normal monsoon, giving rise to large numbers of swarms; In Yemen, swarms form and move to N Somalia and Ethiopia where breeding occurs and more swarms form.
● OCTOBER-DECEMBER: Swarms move from Ethiopia and N Somalia to Eritrea, Djibouti, E Ethiopia, the Ogaden, C and S Somalia to reach NE Kenya; hopper bands and swarms form along with parts of the Red Sea coastal plains in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea and Sudan.
● JANUARY: Swarms continue to invade, spread, mature and lay eggs in Ethiopia and Kenya. Hatching occurs in NE Somalia. Other swarms move into the interior of Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
● FEBRUARY: Swarms continue in Kenya, a few reach Uganda and South Sudan, groups reach Tanzania. Widespread hatching and bands in Kenya. Other swarms reach both sides of the Persian Gulf.
● MARCH: widespread hatching causes a new generation of swarms to form in Ethiopia and Kenya. A few swarms invade Uganda and South Sudan. Widespread swarm laying and hatching in southern Iran.
2020 Locust Plague
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