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Locust infestation poses threat to food security in East Africa

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The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG) on Friday said countries in East Africa are battling a desert locust infestation that is threatening food security and livelihoods.

The outbreak, which the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) said is the worst in 25 years, could lead to famine if not urgently contained.

The East Africa region, which has been fraught by drought, floods and conflict, is already experiencing a high degree of food insecurity with 19 million people battling hunger.

The FSNWG stated that a locust plague and uncontrolled swarms would worsen the situation substantially.

According to Gemma Connell from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the desert locust is among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world.

“A square kilometre swarm can consume the equivalent of food for 35,000 people in one day,’’ Connell noted.

One of the factors responsible for the locust infestation is the Indian Ocean Dipole, a weather phenomenon that has resulted in devastating bush fires in Australia and heavy rainfall in East Africa.

The moist conditions perfectly suit the insects, which can feed on vegetation, breed with ease and move swiftly on the winds.

Authorities have not been prepared for the infestation, which has affected Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea and Sudan and threatens to spread to Uganda and South Sudan.

“Urgent action is required to halt the spread of this devastating infestation and avert a worst-case scenario,’’ Connell urged.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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