The most serious locust outbreak in decades is spreading across East Africa after recent massive floods, posing a threat to food security in some of the world's vulnerable countries. In India, Iran and Pakistan numerous Desert Locust swarms have been present since June 2019. Some of the swarms have migrated to southern Iran where recent heavy rains allowed them to lay eggs that could turn into swarms in spring 2020.
Recent weather in East Africa has created conditions that favor rapid locust reproduction, UN's Food and Agriculture Organization reported on January 20, 2020.
"Left unchecked, the numbers of crop-devouring insects there could grow 500 times by June. Such swarms - potentially containing hundreds of millions of individual Desert Locusts -- can move 150 km (93 miles) a day, devastating rural livelihoods in their relentless drive to eat and reproduce. A Desert Locust devours its own weight in food per day - about two grams."
Ethiopia and Somalia have not seen Desert Locust swarms of this scale in 25 years, while Kenya has not faced a locust threat of this magnitude in 70 years. South Sudan and Uganda are not currently affected, but are at risk, FAO said.
This week, a severely dangerous increase in locust swarm activity has been reported in Kenya, with one swarm measuring 70 km (37 miles) long and 40 km (25 miles) wide in the country's northeast, according to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
FAO warned that the outbreak is making the region's bad food security situation even worse as millions of people are already coping with persistent threats of drought or flooding.
"An average swarm can destroy as much food crops in a day as is sufficient to feed 2 500 people," an IGAD spokesperson said, adding that further increase in locust swarms could last until June as favorable breeding conditions continue.
"This has become a situation of international dimensions that threatens the food security of the entire subregion. FAO is activating fast-track mechanisms that will allow us to move swiftly to support governments in mounting a collective campaign to deal with this crisis," said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu on January 20.
"Authorities in the region have already jump-started control activities, but in view of the scale and urgency of the threat, additional financial backing from the international donor community is needed so they can access the tools and resources required to get the job done," Qu said. "FAO stands ready to leverage our expertise and facilitate a coordinated regional response," he added.
In India, Iran and Pakistan numerous Desert Locust swarms have been present since June 2019 and have been breeding.
Some of these swarms have migrated to southern Iran where recent heavy rains allowed them to lay eggs that could turn into swarms in spring 2020.
Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are also seeing substantial breeding activity that could see locust bands expand into swarms in the coming months.
Featured image credit: Niv Singer