The United Nations Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock during a recent press conference has warned that the ongoing locust outbreak in east Africa could become a 'major humanitarian plague'. He further also warned that the locust crisis also has the potential “to be the most devastating plague of locusts in any of our living memories if we don't reduce the problem faster than we're doing at the moment”. Back in 2019, the outbreak in East Africa came after heavy rainfall in the region and it brought a swarm of desert locust to the region, resulting in a complete loss of crops.
During the same press conference on February 10, another UN official further said that the 'waves and waves of swarms' are spreading further across the region, destroying crops. He also noted that 'over the weekend locust further moved into northeastern Uganda'. The swarms reportedly migrated to Kenya from Ethiopia and Somalia, which have not seen an invasion at this high level in over two decades.
Furthermore, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO) senior locust forecasting officer Keith Cressman has also reportedly said that a medium-size swarm of locusts can, in a single day, eat the same amount of food as the entire population of Kenya. However, he also added that the organisation is expecting any day the locusts will move across the border into the southeast corner of South Sudan.
The Prime Minister of Uganda has also called for an emergency meeting to address the swarm invasion which could heavily affect the food supplies in the country. Earlier this month, Somalia even declared a state of emergency due to the swarm invasion. The FAO reportedly also noted that the situation could get worse with new breeding that will produce more locust infestations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Cressman in a statment said, “Locust swarms have started laying eggs and another generation of breeding will increase locust numbers. Urgent efforts must be made to stop them from increasing to protect the livelihoods of farmers and livestock holders”.
The UN agency had said that it requires $70 million, of which they had mobilised $15.5 million till January 30, to support rapid control operations and measures to protect livelihoods and prevent deterioration of the food security situation. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu had warned that the locust upsurge threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis. QU appealed for urgent funding to tackle the outbreak in order to protect livelihoods and food security and said that the needs will rise if the outbreak spreads to South Sudan and Uganda.