Concerted efforts urged as desert locust outbreak wreaks havoc in East Africa

File photo: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, a group of desert locusts mate on the ground in Nasuulu Conservancy, northern Kenya. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis).
Gregarious locusts congregate on some ground vegetation at Larisoro village near Archers Post, Kenya. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Concerted efforts have been urged against the ongoing desert locust outbreak that wreaked havoc across countries in the Horn of Africa and beyond, in which Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya being the most affected countries.

The latest call was made by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), which, in its latest report, said that “Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and, most recently Uganda and Tanzania, are faced with a desert locust outbreak, with Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya most affected.”

Noting that aerial and ground control measures are ongoing, the ECHO said in its latest situation report issued on Friday stressed that the ongoing control measures “are insufficient to contain the outbreak.”

It also stressed that the desert locust breeding that affected Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Red Sea area is mainly attributed to the above-average rainy season that created favorable conditions for locust infestation.

According to the ECHO, more than 10 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, who are already severely food insecure, are located in areas currently affected by the desert locust infestation.

“With the new cropping season coinciding with new hopper bands, the outbreak risks potentially destroying livelihoods and increasing food insecurity in Eastern Africa, which is still recovering from a severe drought and floods,” the statement read.

It also noted that further 3.24 million severely food insecure people in Uganda and South Sudan are also under threat due to the ongoing desert locust breeding.

Amid growing desert locust-inflicted food insecurity concern across Horn of Africa countries, mainly Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, international organizations as well as experts and policymakers are presently calling the international community to exert concerted efforts to contend the dangerous pest.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had also warned that the desert locust breeding has continued in the Horn of Africa (HoA), causing locusts to increase further in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya with new swarms forming in the coming two months.

“Breeding continues in the Horn of Africa, which will cause locusts to increase further in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya with new swarms forming in March and April. Consequently, there is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region,” the FAO said in its desert locust outbreak update on Wednesday.

In Ethiopia, maturing swarms were present in eastern and southern areas and additional swarms moved into the Rift Valley from the south and the north. Egg-laying and hatching are likely to be underway but so far it has not been detected. Aerial and ground control operations continue in most areas, the FAO had said.

Noting that the “widespread hatching and band formation of desert locust will occur in the coming weeks in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia,” the FAO also stressed that there remains a risk of a few small swarms appearing in northeast Uganda, southeast South Sudan and perhaps northern Tanzania in the coming days.

The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), 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, covering nearly 16 million square kilometers, according to the UN.