Double Trouble Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic as a New Wave of Desert Locusts Evade Eastern Africa


Desert locusts have evaded the eastern region of Africa. This year’s second wave of locusts is twenty times worse. The UN reports that food and livelihoods in East Africa are in ‘an alarming and unparalleled danger.’ A recent report from the UN shows the situation in Kipsing close to Oldonyiro, Isiolo County, which is “particularly worrying” as a growing number of a new swarm is forming in northern and central Kenya. The swarms have targeted Ethiopia and Somalia as well. Throughout Somalia, younger adult locusts which are voracious eaters are part of this second breeding attack.

According to the United Nations, these desert locusts are “difficult to get rid-of.” A third of a square mile swarm can consume the same volume of food as 35,000 people a day. With the battle against coronavirus, desert locusts have invaded Uganda in Amudat and Kumi districts. The desert locusts shocked the pastoral community. They believed that they had survived the first attack of locusts earlier this year. This surge of lethal desert locusts traveled from Kenya to Amudat in Uganda.

Desert Locusts Cause Panic and Fear

Mr. Waiswa Masokonyi, CAO Amudat said the locusts invaded the area, which disorganized the community. As steps to combat the coronavirus, the community is under lockdown. Christine Apolot, the Chairman of Kumi District, Uganda, an area which was attacked last week by a swarm, said citizens are desperate due to continuous calamities like the floods, the previous swarm, and COVID-19. It might bring a food shortage. For now, it’s the uncertainty they have. 

The previous locusts were yellow, Mr. Masokonyi said, and the current locusts are young and green. Masokonyi informed the Agricultural Ministry and the UPDF who were on top of their game in fighting this plague three months ago. Major John Mugisa, the spokesperson for UPDF, assured Amudat that the UPDF will battle the locusts.

“We have received another big swarm of locusts this morning. These are young and don’t look like the first swarm that entered the country three months ago. A team of UPDF soldiers has gone to Amudat to deal with the locusts,” he said.

He told the public not to worry as the government is ready to confront any challenge. The aggressive locusts target fresh crops and other plants in spring. People are anxious and rattled, especially, because the swarm has attacked during the national COVID-19 lockdown. Once locusts land in a location, they consume everything that is green. They have already ruined several crop fields and vegetation.

Hope Amid Recurring Plagues

Meanwhile, officers in Kenya also said the coronavirus lockdown has hindered the fight against the desert locust swarm. It became more challenging crossing boundaries and supplying or buying pesticides. Aerial spraying is the most successful method to combat locusts, but concerns have been created about pesticides that harm the livestock.

The climatic changes and conflicts in Yemen caused the deadliest locust invasion in eight East African nations in February, this year that has never been witnessed in 70 years. These desert locusts fly about 90 kilometers a day to consume food equal to their body weight. In late March, heavy downpours provided an optimal breeding environment in the Horn of Africa for another generation of desert locusts.

There is a prediction that these desert locusts will appear in June as young swarms when many farmers are beginning to harvest. Some farmers have already planted annual crops for the first season. When locust swarms persist and controls are not successful, food crops are destroyed and livelihoods dependent on agriculture are affected. They are destructive breeders, such that they cause crop destruction.

When the Ugandan government gave food assistance to its citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were optimistic. They short-lived their joy because of the locust invasion. The lock-down of COVID-19 is on the road to global ruin. Ugandans are optimistic to receive aid from the government, several sponsors and the World Food Program to rescue them from starvation.


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