Speaking on the sidelines of the 36th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union on Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres requested that countries pay attention to the ongoing locust crisis in East Africa.
"The UN has issued an urgent appeal for assistance. I ask the international community to respond with speed and generosity to ensure an effective response and control the infestation while we still have the chance," he said while in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Saturday, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Heavy rainfall in late 2019 has recently brought swarms of desert locusts to the Horn of Africa, resulting in a severe loss of crops and an overall endangerment of the livelihoods of people in the region. Earlier this month, Somalia’s Ministry of Agriculture declared a national emergency over the “uncommonly large” infestation.
My Dept (DREA) through its special agency AU-IAPSC is working with partners to respond to the Desert Locust that has invaded Parts of Africa specifically Ethiopia, Kenya & Somalia. DREA is also working to tackle the outbreak to avoid further expansion of the invasive species. pic.twitter.com/Kqt1UQ4NZ2— Amb. Josefa Sacko (@JosefaSacko) February 6, 2020
“There is the risk of a catastrophe,” said UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock during a briefing on Monday, reported the Associated Press. According to officials from the intergovernmental organization, it is possible that the outbreak could turn into a plague, particularly if nothing is done before future rains bring about new vegetation for desert locusts to devour.
While a total of $76 million has been requested by the UN, only about $20 million has been offered so far for relief efforts.
Over the weekend, Guterres noted that climate change is a contributing factor to the outbreaks, which have been particularly severe in Ethiopia and Kenya - the latter of which is experiencing its worst infestation in 70 years.
“There is a link between climate change and the unprecedented locust crisis plaguing Ethiopia and East Africa,” he said, as reported by Bloomberg Green. “Warmer seas mean more cyclones generating the perfect breeding ground for locusts. Today the swarms are as big as major cities, and it is getting worse by the day.”
Received video of what I’m told are locusts in Isiolo, Kenya.— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) February 7, 2020
UN say this is the worst locust outbreak to affect parts of East Africa in over 70 years. pic.twitter.com/6Yhc04UFeC
Pakistan is also experiencing a locust infestation said to be the worst in over two decades, and the government has declared a national emergency as a result. Like Guterres, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed that climate change is to blame for the insects’ lingering presence in the South Asian country.
The UN Environment Programme issued a press release on February 6 which noted that the use of organophosphate chemicals dispersed via vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers is the primary method of controlling the desert locust swarms. At the same time, research “regarding biological control and other means of non-chemical control” is also underway, “with the current focus on pathogens and insect growth regulators,” according to the release.