While the eyes of the world are on the novel coronavirus, an enormous stretch of the globe from East Africa all the way to India, countries, among them some of the poorest in the world continues to struggle with another crisis, growing swarms of ravenous locusts on a Biblical scale. The swarms are the largest in almost 100 years. Both crises are extraordinary in size, and both foes multiply so quickly that governments are struggling to contain them.
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
Desert Locust upsurge remains critical in East Africa, Yemen and Southwest Asia according to fao.org.
The current situation remains extremely alarming in East Africa where Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia continue to face an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. New swarms from current breeding will form from mid-June onwards, coinciding with the start of the harvest. Thereafter, there is a risk that swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border as well as to Sudan and perhaps West Africa.
EAST AFRICA In Kenya, more hopper bands have been detected in the northwest where control operations are ongoing. Mature swarms are still present in some places and a few of these swarms moved into southeast South Sudan (Kopeata East district) on 14 May and northeast Uganda (Moroto district) on the 20th.
In South Sudan, earlier breeding is in progress near Torit. In Sudan, mature gregarious adults reached the White Nile region on the border with South Sudan on the 15th. In Ethiopia, control operations continue against breeding in the south as well as hopper bands and several mature swarms further north in the Somali region near northwest Somalia.
In Somalia, new hatching started in the past few days in central (Galmudug), northeast (Galkayo), and northwest (Somaliland) areas. In Sudan, rains are forecasted in the southern portion of the summer breeding areas (South Kordofan, White Nile) during the last week of May and again in the second and third weeks of June. If this occurs, then breeding conditions should be improving when swarms are likely to arrive from Kenya and Ethiopia after mid-June.
ARABIAN PENINSULA In Yemen, widespread breeding is underway in the interior and hopper bands are forming. Survey and control operations have yet to be undertaken. A substantial increase in locust populations is expected in June that could eventually threaten the Horn of Africa.
In Saudi Arabia, control operations are in progress against immature adults groups that formed in the Nafud Desert in the north and mature adult groups in the south near Yemen. Similarly, control operations continue against immature adult groups in northern Oman near UAE.
SOUTHWEST ASIA Spring breeding continues in southern Iran and southwest Pakistan where control operations are in progress against hopper groups and bands as well as an increasing number of adult groups. As vegetation dries out, more groups and swarms will form and move from these areas to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border as several waves from now until at least early July. Good rains are predicted during the first half of June along the Indo-Pakistan border that would allow egg-laying to occur. This should reduce the further eastward movement of swarms that have already arrived in Rajasthan, India.
WEST AFRICA The situation is currently calm. There is a risk that a few swarms from spring breeding areas in Arabia and East Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia) could reach the eastern part of the Sahel in eastern Chad starting from early June if they migrate before the summer rains commence. While the current threat remains low, it can change significantly in the coming weeks based on rainfall, winds, and the locust situation in Arabia and East Africa. Therefore, investments in preparedness and anticipatory actions should be immediately and quickly scaled up to face this potential threat.
2020 Locust Plague
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