Risk of famine as desert locusts plague Africa


East Africa is in the midst of one of the most massive locust plague outbreaks the region has ever seen in decades. The United Nations called for urgent action to avoid a major humanitarian crisis. Billions of locusts have destroyed crops across East Africa.

The plague has attacked; Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya. The locusts crossed the border into Uganda over the weekend, giving them passage to South Sudan and Tanzania.

Director of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s emergencies and rehabilitation division said that; the international community needed to understand that, the issue if not dealt with could turn into a global plague.

Senior locust forecasting officer, Keith Cressman said that; a single swarm could contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometres of farmland. Medium size swarm of locust can eat the same amount of food as the entire population of Kenya. The swarm in one day could eat the same amount of food as everyone in the tri-state area (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York).

UN officials said that; food insecurity already threatens 13 million in the region, ten million in places affected by locusts. The officials added that another twenty million are in danger of going hungry. They warned that if the locust’s situations left unchecked, they could grow up to 500 times before drier weather arrives.


While ground-based pesticides spraying is an ongoing effort, planes dumping the pesticides from the air is the only effective control. The United Nations said that it would start testing drones equipped with mapping sensors to spray pesticides.

Al-Shabaab’s control of some locust breeding grounds in Somalia has made aerial spraying there virtually impossible. At the same time, the UN is willing to negotiate access wherever possible.


The United Nations has asked for 76 million in immediate assistance. So far, only about 20 million dollars is in hand. Lowcock from UN emergency relief fund released 10 million dollars. Food and Agricultural Organization released 3.8 million dollars. The United Nations said that it had released 800,000 dollars, while the European Union released One million Euros.


Chief Lowcock said that the invasion is due to the climatic change. He added that the locust plague is another dimension of the climate emergency. Climate experts pointed out the unusually heavy rains aided by the power cyclone off Somalia in December. The storm winds from; the Arabian Peninsula and parts beyond carried the locust to Somalia’s fresh vegetation.

Alberto Trilllo Barca, a spokesman of the UN, said that; the small, wingless and hoping young locust, in three to four weeks they will grow wings and cause more damage.

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