from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – EAST African countries need US$70 million (R1 billion) to stop the outbreak of swarms of locusts devastating the region.
The pests are sweeping across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with potential to grow 500 times bigger by June.
It is feared they might invade Uganda and South Sudan unless they are immediately brought under control.
The plagues have hit the region at a time it is already facing high levels of food insecurity following droughts and floods.
Currently, 25,5 million people in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are suffering from hunger and severe malnutrition.
The swarms are destroying pasture for livestock, which will likely devastate the upcoming planting season.
“These infestations of hundreds of millions of locusts need to be quickly contained before the next main cropping season of March to July,” said Lydia Zigomo, regional director of Oxfam in Central and East Africa.
Oxfam called on donors to fund the response immediately.
According to experts, a large desert locust plague can contain up to 150 million individuals per square kilometre, with 500 000 locusts weighing approximately one tonne.
One tonne of locusts can destroy at least 200 tonnes of vegetation per day.
Oxfam is part of a network of local partner organisations monitoring the extent of the damage by locusts.
“We are making plans that include providing cash assistance to people most-in-need, particularly small-holder farmers and pastoralists, so they are able to buy food and fodder for their livestock,” Zigomo said.
– CAJ News