UN helps to fight desert locust invasion

Friday January 24 2020

A group of men attempts to fend off a swarm of desert locusts flying over grazing land in Lemasulani, a village in Kenya's Samburu County on January 17, 2020. PHOTO | NJERI MWANGI | REUTERS


East African countries affected by the desert locust invasion require $70 million to tackle the attack that is threatening food security and livelihoods.

It is projected that containing the swarms could take more than six months.

The United Nations announced on Thursday that it had released $10 million for aerial pesticide spraying in response to what has been described as the worst locust outbreak to hit East Africa in decades.

The outbreak is also affecting the Horn of Africa, southwest Asia and the Red Sea, said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

He said that the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock released the money from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

“It is the worst of its kind in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia, and the worst Kenya has seen in 70 years,” Mr Haq said. “Crops are being wiped out in communities that were already facing food shortages.”


Spraying operations

The allocation will go to the Food and Agriculture Organisation to fund additional aerial pesticide spraying operations, the spokesman told reporters at a daily briefing.

Mr Lowcock said the action had to be taken immediately because, if left unchecked, the 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, the UN humanitarian chief added.

The locusts have already invaded Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, and could spread to Uganda and South Sudan in the coming weeks. Locust breeding and movements have also been reported in Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan.

“We need to fill the financing gap and we are appealing to partners for $70 million to complement efforts by governments in the affected countries,” said Bukar Tijani, the assistant director-general at FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department.

He was speaking at a media briefing on the desert locust situation in the region on Friday.

According to experts, the affected countries urgently require planes, ground vehicles, sprayers, pesticide and personnel.

So far, nine planes have been deployed by the affected nations to carry out aerial control efforts.

In Kenya, 10 counties have been hit by the locusts. In Uganda, the government has activated surveillance and rapid respond measures and established a $1.35 million contingency fund to support the efforts.

According to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, the region is already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, with over 19 million people affected.

Under a worst-case scenario, where the current locust upsurge is not quickly contained and becomes a plague by the next cropping season of March to July, significant crop and pasture losses would cause food insecurity in affected areas to worsen.