Spread of desert locusts to Tanzania raises food security concerns UN

ROME, The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has confirmed the spread of desert locusts to Tanzania, making it the third country in the East African Community trading bloc to be infested by the crop consuming insects.

FAO, which leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security, said there were reports that desert locusts arrived in northeast Uganda while other reports indicated that they had crossed the border into northern Tanzania close to Mt. Kilimanjaro, reaching Arusha and Mushi.

The body's latest desert locust situation update of Feb 10, shows that there is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region.

Tanzania reportedly detected swarms in its northern border areas close to Mount Kilimanjaro and deployed three planes to spray pesticides.

For the past few months, billions of desert locusts swarmed across eastern Africamainly affecting Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, with indication they were likely to spread further.

According to the UN, the infestation in Kenya is the worst in 70 years, while Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing their worst outbreaks in 25 years, putting crop production, food security and millions of lives at risk.

In addition to destroying crops, the locusts also consume the vegetation on cattle grazing land in a matter of hours.

According to the FAO, aerial pesticide spraying is the only effective way to combat desert locust swarms.

Swarms crossed into Uganda overnight, and Tanzania and South Sudan are now on the watch list, Mark Lowcock, the UN's top humanitarian official, told ambassadors during a briefing at UN Headquarters.

In this region where there is so much suffering and so much vulnerability and fragility, we simply cannot afford another major shock. And that's why we need to act quickly, Mark Lowcock told ambassadors, during a briefing at UN Headquarters.

We do have a chance to nip this problem in the bud, but that's not what we're doing at the moment. We're running out of time.

It is noted that locusts are the world's oldest and most destructive migratory pest.

An average swarm, which contains up to 40 million insects, can travel up to 150 km in a single day and can devour enough food to feed 34 million people within that time.

The FAO recently launched a $76 million appeal to control the locusts' spread.

So far, it is noted, only around $20 million has been received; roughly half of which came from a UN emergency fund.

Without rapid action, we will be facing a rapidly expanding humanitarian crisis. The Desert Locust swarms are growing exponentially, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu warned in a video message.

Source: NAM News Network