East Africa: FAO Appeals for More Funds to Fight Locusts

Farmers try to scare away desert locusts (file photo).

The Food and Agriculture Organization is appealing for more funds in the fight against desert locusts, warning it will take more time despite significant controls.

FAO raised its locust appeal to $311.6 million during its last meeting with members, regional organisations, partners and other stakeholders.

In a virtual meeting held on May 22, the FAO director-general, Qu Dongyu, warned that efforts to control desert locusts will take time. Mr Qu recently welcomed the World Bank's $500 million programme to help countries in Africa and the Middle East combat the impact of locusts and appealed for additional support from other donors and partners. He noted that increased concern for the Sahel and Southwest Asia is adding to the burden of efforts ongoing in the Horn of Africa and Yemen as a swarm of desert locusts were spotted in Dubai on May 25.

"Our gains have been significant, but the battle is long as they are spreading to new areas," said Mr Qu adding, "It is clear that we can't declare victory yet. Upsurges of this magnitude are rarely defeated in a few months."

LOCUSTS AND HUNGER

Forecasts from the recently-released Global Report on Food Crises show that more than 25 million people will experience acute hunger in Eastern Africa in 2020, and an additional 17 million in Yemen. The Covid-19 pandemic will likely further undermine food security.

Mr Qu stressed it was not only the short-term actions that mattered, but also medium and long-term to support governments and regional authorities to build capacity to anticipate, prepare and prevent future outbreaks. In the coming months, desert locusts will continue breeding in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. New swarms will form in June and migrate to the Sudan through South Sudan and pose a risk to the Sahel in West Africa.

FAO has warned that mature swarms are still present in some places and a few of these swarms moved into southeast South Sudan (Kopeata East district) on May 14 and northeast Uganda in Moroto district on May 20. In South Sudan, earlier breeding is in progress near Torit. While in Sudan, mature gregarious adults reached the White Nile region on the border with South Sudan on May 15.

Rains are forecast in the southern parts of breeding areas of South Kordofan and White Nile in the last week of May and again in the second and third weeks of June.

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