The desert locust swarms that have devastated crops on the Horn of Africa are rapidly multiplying in affected countries and likely to spread into other nations, according to an update from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and partner agencies.
FAO says swarms are the worst in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia, and the worst in 70 years in Kenya. Now they have the potential to threaten Eritrea, Djibouti and northeastern Uganda, where new swarms have been observed.
The FAO, along with the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, warn that South Sudan also is at high risk.
“Looking forward, given favorable forecast weather conditions, swarms are expected to increase in areas already affected, as well as spread to neighboring areas,” the organizations said in a statement that appealed for more funding to address the crisis. Rains in March and April are expected to make matters worse.
FAO says it needs US$76 million to respond effectively and protect food security for some 13 million people, but it has raised only $22 million of what’s needed.
“It will be vastly more cost-effective to support (FAO) to tackle locusts in East Africa now than to help people in the region after their crops have been ruined,” said WFP executive director David Beasley.
“Do nothing now and WFP will need up to 15 times that amount – more than US$1 billion – to assist people devastated by losing crops and livelihoods. Preventing a catastrophe in East Africa is a far better investment than responding to its consequences and impact on the lives of millions across the region.”
Image: FAO/ Sven Torfinn