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Desert locust crisis

The desert locust upsurge could have devastating consequences in already vulnerable regions, potentially causing large-scale crop damage and threatening food security in countries affected by recurrent drought, conflict, high food prices, as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Horn of Africa is facing the worst desert locust crisis in over 25 years, and the most serious in 70 years for Kenya. The current situation – is set to become a regional plague, as several regions are now being affected simultaneously – which represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region and could lead to further suffering, displacement and potential conflict. Desert locust swarms formed in the spring-breeding areas of Southwest Asia and are moving across India, Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In India, swarms that arrived in Rajasthan in May continued to move and have reached several central states in country – this has not occurred since 1961.

The situation remains alarming, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are forming, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the cropping season. In Yemen, hopper bands are forming on the southern coast where controls were carried out, and the situation in the rest of the country is unclear. Swarms and adult groups continue laying eggs in the southwest of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with hatching and band formation imminent. Local breeding also continues in the southeast; however, control operations are underway. The situation is under control for now in the Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Response efforts

FAO has launched a revised appeal for USD 311.6 million to expand its support for rapid control and surveillance operations in the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, Southwest Asia and West Africa and the Sahel. This will put in place anticipatory action, prevent a deterioration in the food security situation and safeguard livelihoods. The updated FAO Desert Locust Global Response Plan includes rapid response and scaled-up action in Southwest Asia and anticipatory action for West Africa and the Sahel. 

FAO’s response and anticipatory action is structured around three pillars:

  1. Curbing the spread of desert locusts through continuous surveillance, ground and air control methods that are technically sound and adapted to the life cycle of desert locusts, conducting impact assessments and promoting environmental, health and safety measures. Under the rapid response plan, 3.2 million ha of land are targeted for locust control.
  2. Safeguarding livelihoods and promoting recovery through cash interventions, supplementary livestock feed, and livelihood recovery and farming packages. A total of 313 200 households have been targeted for livelihoods protection and recovery support.
  3. Coordination of and preparedness for the deployment of rapid surge support, collaboration with regional partnerships, regional advocacy and national capacity building.

Some highlights of ongoing activities under FAO’s Desert Locust Response Plan include: 

  • 2 million ha surveyed and 902 000 ha treated so far, of which 400 000 ha were in East Africa; 
  • 834 000 litres of pesticide, 12 675kg of bio-pesticide procured by FAO; 
  • 5 370 handheld sprayers and knapsack sprayers are operational, with 750 delivered by FAO. An additional 1 817 handheld and knapsack sprayers are being procured by FAO;
  • 25 fixed-wing airplanes are currently operational across the ten countries of which five are contracted by FAO. (Note: 15 airplanes from Government of Sudan, 3 in Kenya (3 FAO), 6 in Ethiopia (2 FAO, 2 DLCO-EA, 2 Government), 1 Uganda (Government).

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