A SERIOUS outbreak of locusts is spreading in parts of East Africa and posing an unprecedented threat to food security in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries, according to officials, with unusual climate conditions partly to blame.
Roughly the length of a finger, the insects fly together by the millions. They devour crops and destroy grazing plots, threatening food production and local economies.
An extremely dangerous increase in locust swarm activity has been reported in Kenya, the East African regional body reported this week.
The outbreak of desert locusts, considered the most dangerous locust species, has also affected parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea. Parts of South Sudan and Uganda could be next, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) warned.
The outbreak is making the region’s bad food security situation worse, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with hundreds of thousands of acres of crops destroyed.
A major locust outbreak between 2003 and 2005 cost more than $500m to control across 20 countries in Northern Africa, the FAO has said, with more than $2.5bn in harvest losses.