Locust invasion is set to leave East Africa on the brink of famine, warns UN official
- East Africa is confronted with a plague of a billion grasshoppers that devour crops
- Insect populations could increase 500 times in four months if left unchecked
- UN wants $ 76 million to buy pesticides and planes to get swarms under control
- If not, it warns that the world is facing a $ 1 billion food aid bill to feed 13 million hungry people
East Africa is facing a widespread famine when the plagues of locusts that devour crops in the region cannot be brought under control have warned the UN.
Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti – with a combined population of 276 million – could no longer have any food.
Grasshoppers would already have more than a billion and their population could increase by 500 times in the next four months if nothing is done.
Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti are all faced with potential famine with 13 million people without food due to locust plagues, UN officials say
David Beasley, director of the UN World Food Program, has called for $ 76 million (£ 53 million) to be paid for pesticides and airplanes to spray the swarms.
He also warned that the countries affected do not have the means to combat the insects alone.
Beasley also warned that about 13 million people will need food supplies if the plague remains uncontrolled, with an estimated cost of $ 1 billion.
The grasshopper invasion is the worst attack in Kenya for 70 years and the worst in Somalia and Ethiopia for 25 years.
Kenya has started spraying the swarms of pesticides, Uganda is sending the army to spray the insects, while Somalia has declared a state of emergency.
It is thought that the grasshopper swarm started three months ago in war-destroyed Yemen, before moving to Ethiopia and Somalia in December.
David Beasley, of the World Food Program, warned that the world could be left with a billion dollars in food aid if they don’t take action to stop the swarms
There are currently around one billion grasshoppers in Africa, and if no action is taken, their numbers could swell 500 times over the next four months (pest controllers in Uganda)
They had reached Kenya by the end of the month and have crossed Uganda in recent weeks.
Desert locusts are usually solitary creatures, but can form huge swarms under the right conditions.
It is thought that heavy rainfall, causing the population to grow, followed by a drought that forces the animals to a smaller area, is to blame.
While the group is forced together, the bodies of the locusts flow with a hormone called serotonin that causes swarm behavior.
The change is so dramatic that scientists for decades thought that the lonely grasshoppers and swarming variety were actually two different species until it was refuted.
The swarm then leaves its traditional territory in search of more food, and will continue until the number falls back to sustainable levels, or the food runs out.