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UN Warns Africa’s Locust Outbreak To Become ‘Most Devastating Plague’ in Decades

© REUTERS / NJERI MWANGISamburu men attempt to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020.
Samburu men attempt to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. - Sputnik International
Over the weekend, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community to provide swift and free-handed assistance to Africa’s locust-stricken desert countries before the insect invasion becomes unmanageable.

The United Nations warned that the ongoing locust crisis in portions of eastern Africa could become a major humanitarian plague, as billions of desert locusts continue invading farmlands in the region often described as the Horn of Africa, particularly in Kenya, which is experiencing the worst infestation in 70 years, according to reports.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, during a Monday press conference at UN headquarters in New York, warned that the outbreak 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”.

Another UN official said, during the press conference, that “waves and waves of swarms” are spreading further across the region, destroying crops, noting that “over the weekend they moved into northeastern Uganda".

“We’re expecting any day they will move across the border into the southeast corner of South Sudan,” UN Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO) senior locust forecasting officer Keith Cressman said.

The locust swarms migrated to Kenya from Ethiopia and Somalia, which have not seen an invasion at this high level in over two decades.

“A swarm in one day can eat the same amount of food as everybody here in the tri-state area (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York). So not taking action in time — you can see the consequences,” Cressman said.

Cressman noted that a medium-size swarm of locusts, which can contain up to 150 million insects, can, in a single day, eat the same amount of food as the entire population of Kenya.

The outbreak in east Africa followed heavy rainfall in the region in late 2019, which brought swarms of desert locusts to the region, resulting in a complete loss of crops and the endangerment of the livelihoods of people in the region.

Earlier this month, Ministry of Agriculture of Somalia declared a national emergency over the “uncommonly large” infestation.

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