The UN on Monday called for urgent action to avoid a major humanitarian crisis as billions of locusts destroy crops across East Africa in the biggest outbreak the region has seen in decades.
The locusts have plagued a number of countries since the start of the year, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya, and crossed the border into Uganda over the weekend. South Sudan and Tanzania could also soon be under threat from the vast swarms.
“It’s time for the international community to understand that it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with now. Otherwise, it will turn into a situation of a plague,” said Dominique Burgeon, director of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation’s emergencies and rehabilitation division.
“There will be high levels of acute food insecurity, there will be millions more people that will require food assistance and it will take us years to control the situation.”
An average locust swarm of around 40 million insects can travel up to 150 km a day and consume enough food in that time to feed 35,000 people.
The UN is seeking $76 million in immediate aid from state donors to help fund spraying and other eradication techniques. But so far, just $20 million has been made available.