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FAO seeks $40m for anti-locust fight in East Africa, Yemen

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Wednesday, December 16, 2020 it was seeking a further $40 million (4.46 billion shillings) to intensify its anti-desert locust operations in East Africa and Yemen in 2021.

Desert locust swarm
Desert locust swarm

FAO said the funds would enable it to increase surveillance and control activities in the most affected countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

“Without additional funding, control efforts could slow down or halt from the end of January 2021, potentially allowing the numbers of the crop-devouring pest to surge in some places,” FAO said in a statement.

It warned that farmers, whose livelihoods have been impacted, require further support and national capacities in monitoring and responding to desert locust still need to be strengthened.

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According to FAO, a new generation of desert locust swarms is threatening agricultural and pastoral livelihoods and the food security of millions of people in the Horn of Africa and Yemen in spite intense efforts to control the pest throughout 2020.

It warned that new locust swarms were already forming and threatening to re-invade northern Kenya and breeding is also underway on both sides of the Red Sea, posing a new threat to Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

According to FAO, more than 35 million people are already acutely food insecure in these five countries and FAO estimates this number could increase by another 3.5 million, if nothing is done to control the latest outbreak.

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“Control operations have prevented the loss of an estimated 2.7 million tonnes of cereal, worth nearly $800 million, in countries already hard hit by acute food insecurity and poverty.

“That is enough to feed 18 million people a year,” it said.

More than 1.3 million hectares of locust infestations have been treated in 10 countries since January with international support and a large-scale response campaign coordinated by the FAO.

The UN food agency said favourable weather conditions and widespread seasonal rains have caused extensive breeding in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia.

“This was worsened by Cyclone Gati which brought flooding to northern Somalia in November allowing locust infestations to increase further in the coming months,” FAO said.

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