Somalia declares national emergency on desert locust infestation

Gregarious locusts congregate on some ground vegetation at Larisoro village near Archers Post, on January 21, 2020. - The outbreak of desert locusts, considered the most dangerous locust species, is significant and extremely dangerous warned the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation ,Monday, describing the infestation as an eminent threat to food security in months to come if control measures are not taken (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP) (Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A desert locust is seen feeding on a plantation in a grazing land on the outskirt of Dusamareb in Galmudug region, Somalia December 22, 2019. REUTERS/Feisal Omar/File Photo

Somalia on Sunday declared a desert locust infestation which is ravaging several parts of the country as a national emergency.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Somalia said the desert locust infestation poses a major threat to the country’s food security situation and expressed fears that its invasion could affect the new planting season which begins in April in the country.

“It is vital to contain the pests with a rapid scale-up in control operations while protecting and supporting the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists,” said the ministry in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

It said pasture and croplands have already suffered damage in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where nearly 12 million people are coping with severe acute food insecurity and many rely on agriculture for their survival.

The ministry said it has scaled up its emergency measures to contain the plague as well as protect the Somali people.

“We must commit our best efforts to protect the food security and livelihoods of Somali people. If we don’t act now, we risk severe food crisis that we cannot afford by any means,” said the ministry.

FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service on Friday said the situation is extremely alarming and will be further exacerbated by new infestations expected in early April.

The Desert Locust upsurge represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods and has the potential to become a regional plague that could lead to further suffering and displacement, it said.