Millions of people in the greater Horn of Africa and Yemen face hunger as a result of the desert locust invasion.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that a new generation of the swarms currently breeding threaten the immediate food security.
“New locust swarms are already forming and threaten to reinvade northern Kenya and breeding is also underway on both sides of the Red Sea, posing a new threat to Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen,” said the UN agency.
With international support and an unprecedented large-scale response campaign co-ordinated by FAO, more than 1.3 million hectares of locust infestations have been treated in 10 countries since January.
Donors and partners have provided nearly $200 million to finance control efforts, training over 1,500 ground survey and control personnel while 110 vehicles mounted with ground sprayers and 20 aircraft are now in action.
Control operations prevented loss of an estimated 2.7 million tonnes of cereal valued at $800 million and enough to feed 18 million people a year.
Favourable weather conditions and widespread seasonal rains caused extensive breeding in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. This was worsened by Cyclone Gati, which brought flooding to northern Somalia in November enabling locust infestations to increase even more in the coming months.
“We have achieved a lot, but the battle against this relentless pest is not yet over. Locusts keep growing and risks are exacerbating food insecurity for vulnerable families across affected region,” said FAO director-general Qu Dongyu.
In press statement, Mr QU said FAO is now seeking a further $40 million to increase surveillance and control activities in 2021 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Yemen.
More than 35 million people are already acutely food insecure in the five countries and FAO estimates this number could increase by another 3.5 million, if nothing is done to control the latest outbreak.
“Over 200,000 households have received livelihood assistance. FAO will assist an additional 98,000 households in early 2021 and is appealing for continuous support through humanitarian response plans,” said Mr QU.
He said control efforts could slow down or halt from the end of January 2021 without additional funding, potentially allowing the numbers of the crop-devouring pest to surge in some places.
Farmers, whose livelihoods have been impacted, require further support while national capacities for monitoring and responding to the desert locusts need to be strengthened.