East Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa region, is facing the worst locust outbreak in decades. City-sized swarms of these insects are eating their way through vegetation and pastures, leaving little or nothing for local people and their cattle.
Desert locusts are the world’s oldest and most destructive migratory pest.Human history has recorded locust invasions going back thousands of years, and it just takes a confluence of just the right conditions, particularly warm weather and heavy rains, to promote rapid breeding. That is what happened last year. By late summer, huge swarms of these insects began moving from Yemen across the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, devouring enough green plants every day to feed 35,000 people.
Now the rainy season is once again approaching in East Africa, and with it, another wave of these pests is expected in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and other countries in the region. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, “if left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people.”
The best way to stop desert locusts is by aerial and ground spraying, as well as through constant tracking of the swarms.Timing is critical. We must reduce locust numbers now, before the spring planting season gets underway, even as we face the added challenge of the global coronavirus pandemic.
That is why the United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, is providing an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the hardest-hit countries. The funds will support regional operations to control desert locusts. This new funding brings the U.S. humanitarian response to the infestation to $19 million.
Throughout the region, USAID has disaster experts who are evaluating humanitarian needs and coordinating response efforts with local governments and aid organizations. They will work closely with these groups to determine whether additional assistance is necessary.
The United States calls upon other donors to contribute funds to address the immediate needs of communities throughout the Horn of Africa.