UN Pleads for Help Amid 'Devastating' Locust Invasion

Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya all overtaken; UN says locust numbers could grow 500 times by June
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2020 12:15 PM CST
UN Pleads for Help Amid 'Devastating' Locust Invasion
A desert locust sits on a maize plant at a farm in Kitui County in Kenya on Friday.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Last month, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization reported on the plague of locusts that had overtaken Somalia and Ethiopia, and now a new East African nation is being beleaguered by the bugs. The FAO says Kenya is also dealing with an "unprecedented" and "devastating" number of desert locusts, which are devouring crops and imperiling farmers' livelihoods, per the BBC. And they're hungry critters: An FAO fact sheet notes that each adult locust can scarf down its own weight in food each day, adding that a Paris-sized swarm would be able to eat the same amount in one day as half of the entire population of France. There hasn't been an infestation like this in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years, while Kenya hasn't been so beset by the bugs in 70 years, and the FAO is afraid the numbers could grow to 500 times what they are now by summer.

The FAO estimated one Kenyan swarm measured about 930 square miles, possibly containing up to 200 billion locusts, Phys.org reports. Uganda and South Sudan are the next countries at risk of being overrun. The FAO has put out the call for international aid in dealing with the problem to "avert any threats to food security [and] livelihoods" and to fend off malnutrition. "The speed of the pests' spread and the size of the infestations are so far beyond the norm that they have stretched the capacities of local and national authorities to the limit," a rep says. CNN notes the problem seems to have been exacerbated by out-of-the-norm weather and climate conditions last year, including significant downpours. Spraying insecticide from planes seems the best option available, but because the locusts are always on the move, it's been hard to tell what's working. (Read more East Africa stories.)

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