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Oxfam appeals for $5m to fight locust plague spreading across East Africa

The worst plague brought on by excessive rains in Yemen moved into Uganda and Tanzania having passed through Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

FILE: Gregarious locusts congregate on some ground vegetation at Larisoro village near Archers Post, on 21 January 2020. Picture: AFP

PRETORIA – Oxfam is appealing for $5 million to fight locust swarms attacking food crops in East Africa and the Horn of Africa region where 23 million people are already suffering acute food shortages.

The worst plague brought on by excessive rains in Yemen moved into Uganda and Tanzania having passed through Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

“Locust breeding is continuing with more juvenile insects developing now, so the swarms could still get bigger, more widespread, and last until June if not brought more quickly under control.

“The desert locust is among the most dangerous migratory pests in the world: A large desert locust plague can contain up to 58 million individuals per square mile, with half a million locusts weighing approximately one ton. One ton of locusts eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2,500 people,” the charitable organisation said in a statement.

Experts said desperate measures being used to combat the locusts were ineffective. In Uganda, soldiers were deployed to chase the insects off crops. Motorised spray units were being used to kill them.

Experts said locusts could fly as high as 200 meters and easily avoid these. This was the worst plague in a quarter of a century and there were no signs of it abating, with new hoppers hatching in areas already stripped bare by the adults.