Locust Invasion UP128

The 2019–21 locust infestation is a pest outbreak of desert locusts which is threatening the food supply across the regions of East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Indian subcontinent. The outbreak is the worst in 70 years in Kenya and the worst in 25 years in Ethiopia, Somalia and India. The plague began in June 2019 and continued into 2020, although locust swarms have experienced steady declines in population and geographical reach from May to October, and are, as of November 2020, primarily found in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

The current outbreak began when Cyclone Mekunu in 2018 produced heavy rains in the Rub' al Khali of the Arabian Peninsula; in Spring 2019, swarms spread from these areas, and by June 2019, the locusts spread north to Iran, Pakistan, and India and south to East Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa. By the end of 2019, there were swarms in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Oman, Iran, India, and Pakistan. By June 2020, a separate swarm appeared in South America, affecting Paraguay and Argentina.

In April 2020, travel and shipping restrictions precipitated by the spread of COVID-19 began to hamper efforts to control the locusts, preventing the transport of pesticides, equipment, and personnel, and contributing to the global incidence of COVID-19 related food insecurity.

Around 2.25m ha land has already been affected as of April 2020. About 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres) of land in Kenya alone are already infested. 20.2 million people facing severe acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. If left unchecked, the number of locusts could grow by 500 times by June 2020, when drier weather will help bring the outbreak under control. 1 million ha of land has been targeted for rapid locust surveillance and control in the eight East African countries. 110 000 households have been targeted for rapid livelihoods protection in seven of the eight countries “Effective control is estimated to be around $60m (£47m) but, if an upsurge occurs, the cost will soar to $500m.”