The East African region has been overrun by enormous swarms of desert locusts that are devouring crops, vegetation and pastures. Many of the affected communities were already in need of humanitarian assistance as they continue to recover from other disasters. If the locusts are not brought under control soon, they could have a larger impact on people’s ability to provide food for their families.
Beginning in Yemen and multiplying at an astonishing rate due to a confluence of conditions that promote rapid breeding of locusts, city-sized swarms of the insects began moving across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden midway through last year.
It is the worst locust infestation that Kenya has suffered in 70 years, and the worst in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years.
Under normal circumstance, preventing the locusts from spreading can be controlled. It can be done through early detection and control when they are at the hopper stage and by using targeted spraying of adult flying insects themselves, preferably in the early stages of swarm formations. But efforts have been stymied by the scale of the outbreak, a lack of resources and because spraying is difficult in conflict-racked places such as Yemen, where the insects are thought to have originated, and in Somalia where timely surveillance, monitoring and control operations continue to be undermined.
The U.S. Agency for International Development announced in mid-February that in response to the this plague, the United States, through USAID, will provide $8 million in support of regional operations to control desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. These funds are in addition to $800,000 that USAID previously provided to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Ethiopia to strengthen national capacity by training more than 300 pest experts and scouts and providing personal protective equipment to help prevent and control the locust outbreaks.
USAID disaster experts are on the ground in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, assessing humanitarian needs and coordinating response efforts with local governments, international and regional organizations, and relief organizations. They will work closely with these groups to determine whether additional assistance is necessary.
The United States also is providing long-term funding to protect food security and livelihoods for the people of East Africa. The United States is helping to strengthen institutional capacity for the detection, surveillance, reporting and monitoring of locusts and other pests, and for additional preventative programs.
The United States calls on the global community to follow its example and donate generously to address the immediate needs of communities throughout the Horn of Africa.