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UN raises 2005 appeal by $38 mln to deal with locust aftermath

Criquet pèlerin. 
Locust.
En une journée, un petit essaim de criquets pèlerins peut dévorer la quantité de nourriture consommée par 2500 personnes. (FAO)

The United Nations has increased its 2005 appeal for West Africa by $38 million in order to help countries battling with the aftermath of last year's locust invasion and localised drought, officials said on Wednesday.

The total sum sought in the regional funding request, known as the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), has been raised to US $190.3 million from the original request of $152.3 million, which was circulated to donors five months ago.

"It has been revised upwards to include new projects linked to the locust crisis," Joel Boutroue, a senior official for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters on Wednesday at the launch of the appeal in Dakar.

The desert locust invasion which swept across the semi-arid Sahel region of West Africa last year was the worst of its kind in 15 years and was accompanied by localised drought in many of the areas worst affected.

"It is imperative that food assistance and agricultural inputs be provided to the victims of the desert locust to bring them through the lean season and prepare them for next year's harvest," the CAP document said.

The bulk of the extra money -- around $26 million -- is being sought by the World Food Programme (WFP) to help feed more than 1.2 million people in Mauritania, Niger and Mali.

All three countries are struggling with food shortages and a scarcity of animal fodder for the cattle, sheep and goats of their nomadic herdsmen.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has requested a further $12 million to supply farmers across the Sahel with vegetable seeds, hand tools and fertilizer to allow them to grow new crops and ease local food shortages caused by the failure of last year's grain harvest.

FAO said it wanted to get village and community groups involved in controlling any future invasion of locusts. They will be taught how to recognise the different types of locust and bury bands of their flightless larvae alive by digging trenches and sweeping the insects into them. They will also be taught how to use lightweight spraying equipment to treat small pockets of infestation.

Clive Elliott, the head of the FAO locust monitoring unit in Rome, told IRIN on Wednesday that he was expecting a smaller locust invasion of the Sahel this summer, following a spell of exceptionally cold weather in the insects' winter feeding grounds in North Africa and the heavy spraying of swarms in Algeria and Morocco.

Elliott said it was still too early to assess the likely size of this year's locust invasion, but the FAO was in a much better position to take early action to control the swarms as they move south across the Sahara this time.

"As far as overall funding is concerned we have a backlog of over $30 million left from last year because so much of the donor finance arrived late," Elliott said.

The FAO and World Bank were jointly organising a contingency planning meeting in Bamako, the capital of Mali, on 23 April, to plan this year's fight against locusts in the Sahel, he added.

The first swarms of insects are expected to start arriving in June as the annual rainy season gets under way.

UN officials in Dakar warned that donors could not afford to forget West Africa, where Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau recently emerged from devastating civil wars and where an unresolved conflict still smoulders on in Cote d'Ivoire, threatening to push the entire sub-region back into turmoil.

They noted that appeals for some $900 million of aid to help victims of the Asian tsunami had been 95 percent met and expressed hope that the international community would match this level of commitment in West Africa.

"2005 is a key year," Boutroue told reporters, noting that crunch elections were scheduled for many countries in the region. "There's competition for funds and we need to sound the alarm a bit harder."

Presidential elections are due to next month in Togo, while Guinea-Bissau will choose a new president in June and Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia are due to go to the polls in October.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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