New crop-destroying locust swarms hitting East Africa ‘nearly every day,’ UN warns in renewed call to fight major food security threat

Credit: AP
Credit: AP

Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s [the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization] Director of Emergencies and Resilience, said the huge [African] desert locust swarms in 2020, some as wide as 60 kilometers, had not been seen in decades, threatening food security in a region where many were already going hungry. 

Surveillance and response led to 1.6 million hectares of land being treated.  As a result, more than three million tonnes of cereals, valued at approximately $940 million, were protected: enough to feed 21 million people for a year. 

“We can say that huge progress has been made, capacities of the countries have been tremendously augmented…but yet the situation is not over”, he told journalists. “We have made a huge effort, we are much better prepared, but we should not be complacent. We should not relax.”  

Locusts began migrating south to northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia when the waters dried up, as experts had predicted. 

“We had forecasted this in October. We had provided early warning to both countries to expect this shortly after mid-December, and that’s indeed what happened”, he said. “And since then, they have been arriving nearly every day.”  

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“This is a cause of concern, and this is also why it’s extremely important that the control operations…are not disrupted”, said [the FAO’s Senior Locust Forecasting Officer Keith] Cressman.

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