Locust swarms set to devastate East Africa – UN calls for funds

27 Feb 20

Heads of various United Nations departments have released a joint statement asking for help money to fight locust swarms in East Africa, which they say are currently at an “unprecedented” level in modern times.


The swarms are currently plaguing a region already prone to climate and conflict-related shocks and where many people are already affected by food insecurity.

In January there were three affected countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, with an estimated combined 57,550 hectares of land needing to be sprayed with insecticide.

But now swarms have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Uganda, Tanzania and one of the most food-insecure and fragile countries in the world, South Sudan.

This week, one swarm reached the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not had a locust incursion since 1944.

The UN appealed to the international community in January for $76m, but have now said that the money was “too slow in coming”, and the scale of the problem now requires $138m (they have so far been given $33m).

Desert locusts have a reproductive cycle of three months, and so mature swarms are laying eggs and many have already hatched. In a few weeks, a new generation of the pests will take flight and wreak further havoc on the region.

“But that doesn’t have to happen. The window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now,” the UN chiefs said.

They predict that responding to the locust threat now would cost 15 times less than responding to the subsequent damage to food supplies in the region.

“It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more later,” they said.

The agencies appealing for money are the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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