Apr 10, 2020 - World

New, larger wave of locusts threatens vulnerable populations in Africa

Locusts.
Locust nymphs aggregated on the ground at a hatch site near Isiolo town in Isiolo county, eastern Kenya. Photo: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images

A second and stronger wave of locusts is expected to threaten parts of Africa in late June and July, just months after the start of the biggest outbreak some countries had seen in roughly 70 years, AP reports.

Why it matters: The crisis has been compounded by restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has hindered the movement of personnel and equipment, the U.N. says. The expected surge is estimated to be about 20 times the size of the first.

The plague, at least partially attributed to climate change, will present an "unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods for millions," the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization notes.

  • Six East African countries are anticipated to be most affected or at risk for the pests: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania. Some 20 million people in those nations are already experiencing acute food insecurity.
  • Already, the swarms have been seen in Djibouti, Eritrea and Congo.
  • Yemen, which was also affected by the first swell of locusts, presently has 15 million people experiencing acute food insecurity.

The big picture: Billions of young desert locusts are emerging from breeding grounds in Somalia to find fresh vegetation that coincidences with seasonal rains, AP writes.

The U.N. raised its appeal for aid from $76 million to $153 million, saying the new outbreak "could lead to further suffering, displacement and potential tensions." So far, contributors have given or pledged $111.1 million.

  • It has treated more than 240,000 hectares across 10 countries with chemical pesticides or biopesticides, with 750 people on the ground trained to control the outbreak.
Go deeper