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By Francesca Mele
In Horn of Africa, during January and February 2020, locust swarms threatened the livelihood and acres of crops in an emergency condition not seen in 25 years. During plagues, the crop-devouring insects could affect 20 percent of the Earth’s land; they can fly up to 150 km per day and if the ecological conditions are favourable, locusts can increase about twenty times more in three months.
The first countries affected by the plague were Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya: UN’s goal was to stop it before spilling over in other countries and to prevent an humanitarian catastrophe. On 20th January, FAO called for $ 76 million to contrast the outburst of the crisis and a large contribution came from Germany, which donated €20 million contribution. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu welcomed the contribution but he also highlighted that:
“We are working to curb the locusts’ spread but we also need to safeguard livelihoods and promote early recovery”.
The consequences facing this crisis are that it affects vulnerable regions based on agriculture, considering that a swarm of 40 million locusts can eat in a day the amount of food for 35.000 people.
In February, the swarms moved to Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania and some have been detected in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and India. The cost for the required actions amounted to $138 million, half to support the affected communities and half to curb the locusts’ spread. It has to be taken into account that this plague happened in countries extremely vulnerable because of political, social or economic issues.
At the moment, even if scientists and internal organizations have worked so hard to contain the outbreak, a new factor has been added to this tough African condition: the pandemic of coronavirus.
The previously trade and production shocks due to the infestation have worsened with the demanding measures that coronavirus imposes in the economic and medical field, in addition to impede the meeting of the technical working groups engaged with the studying of a method to stem the deadly swarm without destroying crops. This dual shock remind us and to the internal community that these countries can’t be abandoned to themselves. Even in this dramatic international moment, don’t forget to be human.