The Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), QU Dongyu, has said desert locust upsurge in the horn of Africa is threatening to provoke a humanitarian crisis and appealed for urgent funding to tackle the outbreak in order to protect livelihoods and food security.
A statement on the website of FAO said the locust outbreak was the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya had experienced in 70 years. Djibouti and Eritrea are now being affected.
The statement further noted that FAO has already mobilised $15.4 million of the $76 million requested for the five countries, but expects the needs would rise amid concern that the outbreak would spread to other countries, in particular South Sudan and Uganda.
Qu, explained that the agency has mobilised staff and resources to tackle the worsening outbreak and was working closely with governments and partners in a region where food security was already very fragile.
"Timing and location is crucial. I hope we can work hard day and night so people do not lose their crops," he said.
He further hinted that the desert locust was considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.
"Pasture and croplands have already suffered damage in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where nearly 12 million people are coping with severe acute food insecurity and many rely on agriculture for their survival.
"FAO experts are on the ground, supporting control operations and initiating efforts to safeguard livelihoods, particularly of those already experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity," he added.
The FAO Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources, Maria Semedo, said there was need to act immediately because the locusts don't wait, they will come and they will destroy, "we need to tackle the emergency but we need to think about livelihoods and the long-term."
"FAO's Desert Locust Information Service says the situation is extremely alarming and will be further exacerbated by new infestations expected in early April."