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Locust Swarms Prompt Somalia to Declare National Emergency

Food

Large swarms of locusts have ravaged crops in East Africa, prompting authorities in Somalia to declare a national emergency, making it the first country in the region to do so, as Al Jazeera reported.


As EcoWatch noted last week, this locust storm came across the Red Sea from Yemen and first attacked Eritrea, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Some Ethiopian farmers lost their entire crop yield to the notoriously voracious pests, which can eat their entire weight in 24 hours. Put another way, a small swarm can eat enough food to feed 35,000 people in 24 hours.

The ravenous swarms that have migrated over Somalia pose "a major threat to Somalia's fragile food security situation," said the country's Ministry of Agriculture in a statement, as the BBC reported. The invasion has authorities worried that the situation will not be under control by the time the harvest season begins in April.

"Food sources for people and their livestock are at risk," the statement added, according to Al Jazeera. "The desert swarms are uncommonly large and consume huge amounts of crops and forage."

The country's statement and emergency declaration is designed to focus efforts and raise money to contain the invasion. Because the country has unstable food security, it cannot use planes to spray insecticides from above. Somalia needs surveillance, data collection, reporting and control activities before the April harvest, the agriculture ministry said in an emailed statement, as Bloomberg reported.

"Given the severity of this desert locust outbreak, we must commit our best efforts to protect the food security and livelihoods of Somali people," said Minister of Agriculture Said Hussein Iid, as Al Jazeera reported. "If we don't act now, we risk a severe food crisis that we cannot afford."

East Africa is already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, with more than 19 million people facing acute hunger, according to the regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, as Al Jazeera reported.

To the southwest of Somalia, Kenya is facing the worst locust invasion it has seen in 70 years, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), as the BBC reported. The FAO has asked for international help in fighting the swarms, saying that without containment the swarms may grow 500 times by June.

In its update, the FAO warned that the swarms are moving south toward Uganda and that breeding has taken place. "Breeding during February will cause a further increase with numerous hopper bands in all [Kenya, Ethopia, and Somalia]," the FAO said. "Some swarms may still reach Uganda and South Sudan in the coming days."

The FAO's map of locust swarms shows a migration from Pakistan to Yemen. Pakistan, like Somalia, declared a state of emergency over locust swarms on Friday.

"We are facing the worst locust infestation in more than two decades and have decided to declare national emergency to deal with the threat," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Saturday, as Deutsche Welle reported.

The locusts there have decimated cotton, wheat, maize and other crops. To prevent food insecurity, Pakistan has started aerial spraying to destroy the swarms.

"The federal government will take all possible steps and provide required facilities to protect crops from any possible danger with special focus on the danger of locust," said Prime Minister Imran Khan, as Deutsche Welle reported.

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