UN says “dangerous” desert locust situation developing across Ethiopia, Horn of Africa

Drought in Madagascar in August, 1992, Alexis ORAND/Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: A desert locust feeds on crops. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi/File Photo

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday warned that a “dangerous desert locust situation” is developing across the Horn of Africa amid continuing locust breeding in eastern Ethiopia and adjacent areas of Somalia.

“Although ground and aerial control operations are in progress in the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia, new immature swarms are expected to start forming in the Ogaden by the end of this month that could threaten crops,” the FAO said in a statement.

Some of the swarms are likely to move south toward northeast Kenya and adjacent areas of southern Somalia, the FAO said.

As rains fell over a large portion of the Ogaden and Somalia from Cyclone Pawan, many swarms are expected to remain in place for another generation of breeding that could “cause a substantial and dramatic increase in locusts,” it said.

“All efforts are required by national authorities to undertake regular surveys, timely reporting and efficient control, and to upscale these activities in the coming weeks and months,” the statement said.

It also noted that desert locust breeding is in progress along both sides of the Red Sea, where several more swarms have formed on the northern coast of Yemen, coupled with a new generation of hatching.

In Sudan, ground and aerial control operations treated more than 12,000 hectares (120 square kilometers) of adult groups during the first half of December, according to the FAO.

Earlier this week, the FAO said desert locusts have invaded nearly 430 square kilometers of land in Ethiopia’s major crop-producing regions over the past two months, consuming about 1.3 million metric tons of vegetation.

“Despite major control and prevention operations, substantial crop losses have already occurred in the Amhara and Tigray regions of Ethiopia,” the FAO said.

The desert locust, which is considered as the “most dangerous of the nearly one dozen species of locusts,” is a major food security peril in desert areas across 20 countries, stretching from west Africa all the way to India, overing nearly 16 million square kilometers, according to the FAO.