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East Africa Locust Infestation

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Kenya -?The desert locusts have swarmed in Kenya from Somalia and Ethiopia, destroying farmlands. Ravenous swarms threaten entire East Africa subregion. FAO scales up its emergency response with a massive, border-spanning campaign needed to combat locust upsurge in East Africa. FAO/Sven Torfinn.

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Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are being invaded by enormous swarms of desert locusts in the worst such upsurge in 70 years in Kenya, and in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia. The locusts are an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in an already food-insecure region. There are over 20 million people in the affected countries who are already in severe acute food insecurity. In the Greater Horn of Africa, the locusts have also reached Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan. One small swarm recently reached the Democratic Republic of Congo, which last received desert locust in 1944.

FAO Desert Locust?FAQs

Compounding the situation is the upcoming rainy/planting season, starting in March, which is the most important planting/agricultural season for most of the worst affected and at-risk countries in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Rain is an enabler of desert locust reproduction and, given the right conditions,there is an exponential increase in locust numbers with every new generation of breeding; 20 times after 3 months, 400 times after 6 months, 8 000 times after 9 months.

Desert locusts are considered the most destructive migratory pests in the world. Hundreds of thousands of hectares, including cropland and pasture, have already been affected.

In Kenya preliminary figures from January indicate a loss of 20-30 per cent of pasture. However, many of the areas affected are very remote so there is as yet no firm number on the extent of the damage and losses - rapid assessments are currently underway to gain a clearer picture of damage.

In one day, a 1 km2 swarm can consume the equivalent of food for 35,000 people and can travel 150 km. There can be from 40 million to 80 million locust adults in each 1 km2 swarm.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched an emergency appeal for US$138 million to help governments rapidly scale up aerial spraying and other control measures and to protect peoples’ livelihoods in affected areas. FAO has thus far raised $52 million out of the total needed.

The FAO is developing a Global Locust Plan, which will include the Horn of Africa regional plan and requirements for other countries in Africa, including Sudan, as well as other affected regions in the Middle East and Asia.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund has released US$10 million to support the FAO response. “We must act now,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock. “If left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to spill over into more countries in East Africa with horrendous consequences. A swift and determined response to contain it is essential.”

Resources are required immediately.

We cannot eradicate the locusts, but we can contain them and prevent a food crisis from breaking out.

FAO has long-term expertise in monitoring and managing locust populations and is providing 24/7 updates and forecasts of the crisis. It mobilizes financial resources and – through emergency projects – procures equipment and supplies (including planes and pesticides) for use by governments. FAO also hires and deploys international experts to support control campaigns.


Latest from FAO on the locust crisis

Locust crisis updates on ReliefWeb

Press release: CERF releases $10 million for locust response

Exposure: The locust crisis in numbers

East Africa's locust crisis in numbers by UN Humanitarian on Exposure