Nairobi — The United Nations has released Sh1.9 billion to help scale up the response to the devastating desert locust outbreak in East Africa.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock says the allocation from UN Central Emergency Response Fund will go towards funding an increase in pesticide aerial spraying operations, which is the only effective means to reduce the locust numbers.
He described the desert locust as among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world which if left unchecked, could reproduce their current numbers more than 500 times by June.
The UN Humanitarian Chief said the devastating locust outbreak is starting to destroy vegetation across East Africa with alarming speed and ferocity.
At least eight counties in Kenya are affected, the latest being Turkana where they are exiting the country to neighbouring Uganda.
"Vulnerable families that were already dealing with food shortages now face the prospect of watching as their crops are destroyed before their eyes," he explained.
The international humanitarian agency warned of an acute food and pasture crisis if the matter is not brought under control, noting that a small swarm can consume the equivalent of food for 35,000 people in one day.
"We must act now. If left unchecked, this outbreak has the potential to spill over into more countries in East Africa with horrendous consequences. A swift and determined response to contain it is essential. This allocation from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund will fund a massive scale-up in aerial operations to manage the outbreak," Lowcock stated.
In a statement to newsrooms, the UN humanitarian chief said the outbreak is worsened by the recent weather in East Africa, which has created conditions that support rapid locust reproduction.
In Ethiopia, where floods had already affected the harvest, the locust infestation has destroyed hundreds of square kilometers of vegetation in the Amhara and Tigray regions.
And in Kenya, which was hit by back-to-back droughts and then floods in 2019, the past week has seen a significant and extremely dangerous increase in swarm activity.
In neighbourig Somalia, tens of thousands of hectares of land have been affected in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug (Mudug), and mature swarms are present in the Garbahare area, near the Kenyan border.
The UN allocation comes from CERF, which provides rapid funding in response to sudden-onset or rapidly deteriorating crises and is designed to grow into a $1 billion-a-year emergency relief mechanism.