Somalia has become the first country in the Horn of Africa to declare a locust infestation sweeping the region as a national emergency. The country's Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement on Sunday the desert locust surge "poses a major threat to Somalia's fragile food security situation"."Food sources for people and their livestock are at risk," it added. "The desert swarms are uncommonly large and consume huge amounts of crops and forage.
"The ministry said the emergency declaration was made to focus efforts and raise funds because it was critical to contain the locust swarms before harvests are due in April. Desert locusts - whose destructive infestations cause large-scale crop damage and hunger - are a species of grasshopper that live largely solitary lives until a combination of conditions promote breeding and lead them to form massive swarms."Given the severity of this desert locust outbreak, we must commit our best efforts to protect the food security and livelihoods of Somali people," said Minister of Agriculture Said Hussein Iid."If we don't act now, we risk a severe food crisis that we cannot afford."
According to the Regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, East Africa is already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, with more than 19 million people facing acute hunger. The locusts have led to what the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has termed the "worst situation in 25 years" in the Horn of Africa. The FAO says the current invasion is known as an "upsurge" - when an entire region is affected - however, if it gets worse and cannot be contained, more than a year or more, it would become what is known as a "plague" of locusts. There have been six major desert locust plagues in the 1900s, the last of which was in 1987-89. The last significant surge was in 2003-05.
A state of emergency was declared in Pakistan yesterday to tackle the biggest locust attack in decades. The insects are destroying crops in Punjab province. The Punjab province in Pakistan is the main region for agricultural production. Prime Minister Imran Khan approved a National Action Plan (NAP) that requires a sum of Rs 7.3 billion to overcome the crisis. Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar informed the National Assembly about the gravity of the situation. Khan ordered the formation of a high-level committee to be headed by Bakhtiar to take decisions at the federal level for the elimination of insects. He has directed the authorities concerned to take immediate measures on the basis of damage of ripened crops.
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.
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