locust swarms

Strange times we live in. As COVID-19 wreaks havoc across the world, another plague is sweeping across Africa.

Billions of locusts have descended upon towns and cities across East Africa and South Asia. It is the worst infestation for a quarter of a century, threatening crops and livelihoods.

Nobody knows where these locusts come from or why they have suddenly appeared.

However, what is known is that these pests – known as desert locusts – eat their own body weight in food every day, and are breeding so fast numbers could grow four hundredfold by June.

A small portion of an average swarm eats around the same amount as 10 elephants, or 2,500 people.

Since desert locusts breed so quickly, a plague can last longer than a decade.
locusts, pests

The main locust hotspots are in East Africa, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain as well the Gulf states, Iran, Pakistan and India.

In Somalia, the sheer numbers of locusts forced the government to declare a national emergency.

Africa’s worst locust outbreak in decades is threatening the continent at an unprecedented scope.

Eyewitnesses reported that they could hear the sounds of millions of jaws biting and chewing.

In January, the UN appealed for $76m (£59m) to tackle the crisis. That figure has now risen to $138m. But so far, only $52m has been received.

African locusts

However, locust plagues are nothing new. In 1875, the largest locust plague in history turned US skies black, when a swarm 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide flew over the Midwest.

More than 200 billion locusts were found in Kenya alone.

Fears are that the numbers could grow 500 times by June and reach 30 different countries.

A swarm can spread over 460 square miles, with 40 million to 80 million locusts per half-square mile.

This affects over 20% of the earth’s land surface, and according to the UN, plagues can damage the livelihoods for one-tenth of the world’s population.

The UN estimates that 24 million people are already facing food shortages from weather, general food insecurity, and locust invasions. In Ethiopia, the UN warned that eight million people may need food aid from locust crop attacks.

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