Locust swarms threaten an unprecedented emergency that could jeopardize crops and food security in parts of Africa and Asia, experts warn.
The initial locust invasion in December was due to cease during the current dry season. But the off-season rains allowed several generations of locusts to breed, which led to the formation of new Swarms.
Huge swarms of locusts caused devastation throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Unstable weather and storms helped their way. As a result, countries have been fighting pests for several months to avoid starvation.
Desert locusts that live in areas between West Africa and India cause the most damage and love to breed in humid conditions. These locusts live for three months. The eggs hatch two weeks after they have been laid, and the individuals become adults after about six weeks.
Adult locusts can eat their body weight every day, and fly up to 150 km per day in search of food.
Kenya is experiencing its worst locust infection in the last 70 years, and herders complain that the vegetation on which their livestock feeds is being destroyed. Ethiopia and Somalia have not seen an outbreak of locusts so powerful for 25 years. The swarms also destroyed crops in Uganda, India and Pakistan.
Experts fear that rains and lack of funds in Somalia and South Sudan could undermine efforts to stop locust spreads in the east and the Horn of Africa.
Keith Kressman, an expert at food and agricultural organizations at the UN, said locusts are expected to move further north into Ethiopia and South Sudan in the coming months. High food prices in South Sudan could exacerbate the threat of hunger.
Locusts are projected to damage crops that would be enough to feed 280,000 people for six months in Somalia.
A current locust outbreak has occurred in Yemen, where breeding conditions created by off-season rains in conjunction with the ongoing conflict have provoked an uncontrolled invasion of locusts.
Yemen has “turned into a reservoir” that can continue to fuel the crisis, as it still cannot control the locusts. Like the fighting, heavy rains that were once unusual became almost a monthly occurrence.
Increasingly unpredictable weather will be critical to how long the crisis lasts and what locations will be affected. Locusts are already moving towards the Indian-Pakistani border.