Locusts leave 13m Africans food insecure
– The UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs called on the international community on Monday to help East African countries affected by locust swarms, expressing deep concern at the situation.
“There are 13 million people in the affected countries who are severely food insecure now,” said Mark Lowcock during a United Nations (UN) press conference. “Ten million of those people are in the places affected by locusts.”
Lowcock, who said he had recently released $10 million (R149 million) for the crisis, warned that “unless there was a rapid response, we are going to have a huge problem later in the year”.
The locusts have devastated food supplies in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. They were reported to be in Uganda on Sunday.
According to Lowcock, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated at the end of January that a locust control plan would cost $76 million.
“What we have so far is just $20 million,” he said. “Unless we get a grip of this in the next two, three or four weeks, we are worried we are going to have a really serious problem.”
Lowcock said the locust outbreak was “the worst for 70 years in Kenya, for 25 years in Ethiopia, Somalia,” and said one of the reasons behind the swarms was climate change.
Desert locusts, whose destructive infestations cause major crop damage, are a species of grasshopper that live largely solitary lives until a combination of conditions promote breeding and lead them to form massive swarms. Swarms formed in eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia have moved through the region. – AFP