Locust plague spells catastrophe for millions in underfunded East Africa

A local farmer runs through a swarm of desert locusts to chase them away.Humanitarian organizations have warned that locusts could be ctatastrophic to underfunded East Africa /COURTESY

A humanitarian crisis is looming in Kenya and East Africa if funding to tackle the locust invasion is not secured immediately, the Norwegian Refugee Council in East Africa, said on Friday.

Nigel Tricks, the Norwegian Refugee Council´s Regional Director for East Africa, said in a statement to newsrooms that grossly underfunded humanitarian responses across East Africa were tipping towards breaking point as a result of the recent desert locust invasion.

“This region has opened its arms to a huge number of displaced people, with millions already hammered by climate shocks and conflict. The locust invasion is threatening vulnerable communities and puts further strain on the already stretched resources of governments and aid agencies,” said Nigel in the statement.

Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya have been worst hit with Kenya reporting locust invasion in Eastern and Central regions that have resulted in massive destruction of vegetation and threatened livelihoods.

So far there has been no solid intervention with the agriculture ministry shuffling from one unsuccessful strategy to another.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said a food crisis is looming in the region if resources are not forthcoming and have appealed to donors for an additional 62 million dollars on top of the 76 million requested last month.

According to FAO, the invasion is escalating. One swarm has reached the eastern boundaries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) while South Sudan reported its first swarm invasion last week.

It also warned that new locust eggs are hatching and millions are resurfacing in farming areas placing the March to May planting season at serious risk. If left unchecked, the numbers of crop-eating insects could grow 500 times by June.

“The locust threat must provoke an urgent, and coordinated, response from donors to prevent tipping millions into a humanitarian catastrophe,” Nigel added.