East African Countries Warned of More Locust Outbreaks

ADDIS ABEBA – East African countries have been warned to take immediate and collective actions after severe desert locust outbreak threatens food security across the sub-region.

The regional bloc, IGAD, says a serious and widespread Desert Locust outbreak is destroying crops and pasture across eastern Ethiopia, Somalia, parts of Sudan, Eritrea and northern Kenya.

In the absence of immediate and significant scale-up in control activities the countries are at high risk of witnessing the further spread of the swarm, the bloc said.

There is a risk that some swarms could appear in northeast Uganda, southeast South Sudan and southwest Ethiopia.

This is the worst situation in 25 years and unusual weather and climate conditions have contributed to it, including heavy and widespread rains since October 2019, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A further increase in locust swarms is likely to continue until about June due to the continuation of favorable ecological conditions for Locust breeding, it says.

One immature swarm was 60 km long by 40 km wide in the northeast.

“IGAD calls on its Member States, the East African Community and partners to pull resources together to prevent, control and possibly eradicate the Desert Locust threat to the food security of the region,” said Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, IGAD’s Executive Secretary.

“Prevention and control measures must be scaled up to contain further spread of the Desert Locust,” he said, “Countries must act urgently to avoid a food security crisis in the region”.

Dr. David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator, warned the locust is making the bad food security situation worse in the sub-region, exacerbating the existing dire food insecurity and malnutrition in the sub-region.

“The weather seems favorable for the locust breeding with high probability that the locust will continue to breed until March-April 2020, if no longer,” Dr. Phiri said.

The Desert Locust is the most dangerous of the nearly one dozen species of locusts. It is normally present in the desert areas across 20 countries between West Africa and India, covering nearly 16 million square kilometers.

Green vegetation and moist sandy soils are favored for breeding. A typical desert locust swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer.

Swarms migrate with the wind and can cover 100 to 150 kilometers in a day. An average swarm can destroy as much food crops in a day as is sufficient to feed 2,500 people and pasture biomass.

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[Photo Isak Amin/AP]

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