The locust infestation developing in the Horn of Africa has the potential to cause a serious humanitarian problem in Eritrea, northern Somalia and Sudan, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.
Urging the three countries to carefully monitor the situation, FAO said a second-generation locust infestation from a December outbreak in Eritrea was now concentrating in an area on the Red Sea coast straddling the Sudanese-Eritrean border.
"There have been several new developments in the past few days in three key areas," FAO said in an update on the crop-devouring insects issued on Friday. They were present in pearl millet crops in wadis and in natural vegetation on the coastal plains, the agency said.
"Within a week, the majority of these populations will become adults and form small immature swarms," the agency warned. "As vegetation is drying out on the coast, the swarms are likely to move further north along the coast in Sudan as well as west into the Eritrean highlands."
|Within a week, the majority of these populations will become adults and form small immature swarms|
Small bands were also present in the Silil area on the northwest coast of Somalia near Djibouti, because of good rainfall and breeding in the past few months. "A few small immature swarms have already formed and more are expected in the coming weeks," it noted.
The swarms may move in any direction - up the escarpment towards the Ethiopian border, northwest towards the Eritrean highlands, east along the coast, across the Gulf of Aden to southern Yemen - or simply stay on the coast and eventually breed once the long rains commence.
Operations to control the infestation were ongoing, FAO noted, adding that this week aerial spraying would start, to try to contain the scale of the expected migration.
The locust is a species of short-horned grasshopper that can either form part of a swarm of adults or become a wingless nymph (hopper). The swarms - which travel up to 130km a day - can measure from one to several hundred kilometres in length, posing a serious threat to agriculture.
According to the FAO, locusts regularly cross the Red Sea (a distance of 300km). A swarm can hold up to 80 million locust adults in each square kilometre, and is capable of destroying a crop field in seconds. A small swarm can eat as much food in a day as 2,500 people.
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