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Cloud of locusts flying in Mwingi North, Kenya, in February. Photo: Fred Mutune/Xinhua via Getty Images

Traveling locust swarms in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, that had reached the size of Manhattan in some places, are still growing in East Africa, and the problem is now compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

Driving the news: New cases of coronavirus have been discovered in much of the region this month, and the pandemic also is slowing the delivery of pesticides that can kill the insects.

  • "In Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season,” the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said last week.

The organization added: "Along with climate shocks, conflict and acute food insecurity, the East Africa region now faces a hunger threat from Desert Locust. This is a scourge of biblical proportions."

State of play: The locusts could multiply by 400 times this year, as swarms are maturing and will be ready to lay eggs beginning in early April.

  • That could decimate crops in a region that relies on agriculture for about one-third of its GDP and more than 65% of employment.

The big picture: East Africa was the standout performer for economic growth in the African subcontinent prior to the locust outbreak, and with more cases mounting in Africa's two economic hubs, South Africa and Nigeria, the continent's growth could grind to a halt.

  • New swarms also are forming in Yemen, and Iran, which both have been ravaged by violent clashes for much of the past year, and the selloff in oil markets has compounded the economic toll.

On the positive side: Government agencies say the locust situation is under control in Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Pakistan and India.

Go deeper: Locust swarms put millions at risk of starvation across Africa and Asia

Go deeper

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI said in a statement to news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.

Biden defends not immediately raising refugee cap

President Biden speaking with reporters after leaving his cart following his first round of golf as president at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Saturday sought to explain why he didn't immediately lift the Trump administration's historically low refugee cap.

Driving the news: Several Democrats accused Biden Friday of not fulfilling his pledge to raise the limit after it was announced he'd keep the cap. The White House said later it would be raised by May 15. Biden told reporters Saturday, "We're going to increase the number."