The United Nations is seeking $38m to sustain its operations against new locust incursions in the East African countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation had, last year, taken action to control unprecedented desert locust infestations in the Horn of Africa, protecting crops and livelihoods.
FAO stated on Wednesday, “Without this support, 28 aircraft that patrol the skies to spot and spray swarms could be grounded as early as March.”
According to its Director of Emergencies and Resilience, Dominique Burgeon, the huge desert locust swarms in 2020, some as wide as 60km, had not been seen in decades, threatening food security in a region where many were already going hungry.
Burgeon stated that surveillance and response led to the treatment of 1.6m hectares of land, as a result, more than three million tonnes of cereals valued at $940m were protected, enough to feed 21m people in a year.
“We can say that huge progress has been made, capacities of the countries have been tremendously augmented…yet the situation is not over.
“We have made a huge effort. We are much better prepared. But we should not be complacent. We should not relax,” Burgeon added.
FAO’s Senior Locust Forecasting Officer, Keith Cressman, said, “We had forecasted this in October. We had provided early warning to both countries to expect this shortly after mid-December, and that’s indeed what happened. And since then, they have been arriving nearly every day.”
He noted that the locusts were young, but will mature and reproduce in the coming months. As a result, FAO anticipates a new generation emerging early April, coinciding with the rains and the planting period in Kenya and southern Ethiopia.
The desert locusts are also breeding further north, on Somalia’s coastline on the Gulf of Aden, with new swarms likely to begin forming in late February.
“This is a cause for concern, and this is also why it’s extremely important that the control operations are not disrupted,” Cressman added.
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