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Desert locusts could cause up to US$8.5bn in damages by the end of 2020

Heavy flooding, as well as the effects of restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will compound the socio-economic impact of locust infestations in East, according to the Unitd Nations (UN)

desert locusts 17 JuneThe UN agency projects that breeding will continue in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in the coming months. (Image source: Christelle PRIEUR/Pixabay)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has emphasised the need to maintain surveillance and control operations in countries affected by desert locusts in the coming months, warning that the current upsurge could develop into a plague—the highest of three FAO levels classifying the scale of locust infestations—by the end of 2020 if infestations are not adequately controlled. 

The UN agency projects that breeding will continue in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in the coming months, with infestations extending further into additional areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan.

New swarms from the Arabian Peninsula—including from Yemen, where conflict and coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions are hampering effective surveillance and control efforts—may also invade Ethiopia, Somalia, and other countries in East Africa by crossing the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea.

In anticipation of increased breeding and additional invasions into East Africa, FAO issued a revised regional desert locust response plan on 21 May, requesting an additional US$78.4mn to sustain locust surveillance and control interventions in 10 countries through December. The requested funding—which brings the total support requested by the UN agency to US$231.6mn since March—will enable FAO to purchase additional pesticides and extend contracts for aircraft and flight crews conducting response activities. 

In addition, the funds will support FAO to provide livelihoods assistance for up to one million people in locust-affected communities; however, the UN notes that heavy flooding, as well as the effects of restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will compound the socio-economic impact of locust infestations, likely resulting in increased food and livelihood needs in affected areas in the coming months.

 


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