World News

East Africa is suffering its worst invasion of desert locusts in 25 years

Posted January 24, 2020 5:38 a.m. EST

— The Horn of Africa has been hit by an invasion of desert locusts in 25 years -- and in Kenya, it's the worst in 70 years, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.

The invasion poses an unprecedented threat to food security in the entire sub region, where over 19 million people in East Africa are already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity, the agency said.

Irregular weather and climate conditions in 2019, including heavy rains between October and December, are suspected to have contributed to the spread of locusts in the region. Large swarms in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya continue to wreak havoc on crops and pastures.

"Under a worst-case scenario," the invasion could become a plague if it is not contained quickly, the FAO said in a statement.

Experts warn there is a high risk the swarms could migrate into Uganda and South Sudan, further threatening pastoral areas.

Desert locusts swarms can stay in the air for very long periods of time, traveling up 130 kilometers (80 miles) or more a day.

A swarm can vary from one square kilometer to several hundred square kilometers with up to 80 million adult locusts in each square kilometer of a swarm, the FAO said.

Daily aerial sprays of pesticides are being done in an effort to kill the locusts while they rest, but the spread of desert locusts west towards South Sudan and Uganda is "very high given the currently limited control activities in some countries, and the high mobility and reproductive potential of the Locust."

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, desert locusts swarms can stay in the air for very long periods of time, traveling about 5 to 130 kilometers (80 miles) or more a day. A swarm can vary from one square kilometer to several hundred square kilometers with up to 80 million adult locusts in each square kilometer of a swarm.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.