Locust swarm reaches Uganda and Tanzania

File photo: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, a group of desert locusts mate on the ground in Nasuulu Conservancy, northern Kenya. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis).

Massive swarms of locusts sweeping across much of east Africa have reached Uganda and Tanzania, the United Nations has said, threatening millions of more people with hunger in an already fragile region.

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

Tanzania has detected swarms in its northern border areas close to Mount Kilimanjaro and hired three planes to spray pesticide, a tactic seen as the most effective means of countering the spread of the insects.

Ugandan authorities have rushed pesticides to affected areas and has mobilised thousands of troops.

“We are using motorised sprayers, a drone and manual sprayers,” Stephen Byantwale, the commissioner for crop protection at the ministry of agriculture, said. “They [locusts] are spreading like wildfire, so they are a real, major threat.”

“The Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. David Muhoozi has appointed Major General Sam Kavuma, Deputy Commander Land Forces to be the lead person on the part of UPDF on this national task force and this shows the level of commitment we have towards this matter,” Karemire said.

On what the 2000 soldiers will be doing on ground, Karemire said, “The 2000 soldiers will be used in different tasks, the ministry of Agriculture (lead agency) is working out all details and the technical team from the ministry will take advantage of the different skillsets of the UPDF soldiers,” he said.

The outbreak in East Africa is the most serious in decades and has already devastated crops across a swath of Kenya and Somalia.

Climate experts have pointed to unusually heavy rains, aided by a powerful cyclone off Somalia in December, as a major factor in the crisis. The locusts arrived from the Arabian peninsula after cyclones dumped vast amounts of rain in the deserts of Oman – creating perfect breeding conditions.