Published: Sat, February 15, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Massive Locust Breakout in East Africa Poses Threat of Plague

Massive Locust Breakout in East Africa Poses Threat of Plague

Millions of people already short of food, could face starvation.

Climate change is one of the reasons for the worst infestation in East Africa in living memory, humanitarian affairs chief Lowcock said.

During the same press conference on February 10, another United Nations official further said that the "waves and waves of swarms" are spreading further across the region, destroying crops.

To combat the swarms, Ugandan authorities said they have transported pesticides to affected areas.

Describing locusts as "the most unsafe migratory pest in the world", Mr Cressman added that they have recently entered Tanzania and Uganda are expected to arrive soon in South Sudan.

An official from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization demonstrates software used to record and track the location and movements of locusts using Global Positioning System in the desert near Garowe, in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia.

Keith Cressman, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's senior locust forecasting officer, provided an update on the swarms in Kenya, adding that they have emerged from the Horn of Africa since the start of 2020.

So far, it is noted, only around $20 million has been received; roughly half of which came from a United Nations emergency fund.

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Hundreds of millions of the voracious insects have swept across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya in what the United Nations has called the worst outbreak in a quarter of a century, with Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti also affected. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu had warned that the locust upsurge threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis. To demonstrate how disastrous a desert locust is, FAO states that a swarm the size of Paris can devour as much food as half the population of France!

And it's asked for $76 million in aid to help control the outbreak. "So not taking action in time - you can see the consequences", Cressman said.

Officials in Kenya believe this could play an important role due to the limited number of aircrafts available.

He said: 'Nobody's ever done this with desert locusts before'.

'Every county wants an aircraft, but we only have five at the moment and they can only be in one location at one time, ' said David Mwangi, head of plant protection at Kenya's ministry of agriculture.

"We have not used drones before, but I think it's worth testing them".

In Somalia, tackling the problem is made even harder as large areas are under threat, or held by, the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group. Locust invasions in general are not an abnormal situation but the current attack is plague like wherein Pakistan has already declared it as a national emergency.

The best way to control desert locusts is by spraying them with pesticides or bio-pesticides from vehicles or the air.

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