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article imageLocust outbreak in East Africa spreads to South Sudan

By Karen Graham     Feb 18, 2020 in World
The worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years has reached South Sudan, a country where roughly half the population already faces hunger after years of civil war, officials announced Tuesday.
This year's locust outbreak is an unprecedented threat to food security in a part of the world where millions already face hunger says the United Nations. And now, the swarms - which have about 40 million to 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer of a swarm and travel up to 150 kilometers a day - have now reached South Sudan.
The locusts were just spotted inside the country, South Sudan Agriculture Minister Onyoti Adigo told reporters. Authorities will try to control the outbreak, he added. The swarms have already been through Eastern Equatoria state near the borders with Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.
The situation in those three countries “remains extremely alarming,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in its latest Locust Watch update Monday, according to the Associated Press.
Drought  such as that gripping Turkana County in Kenya  has become more frequent because of global w...
Drought, such as that gripping Turkana County in Kenya, has become more frequent because of global warming
Political instability a factor in controlling locusts
In some African countries, political instability is a factor in trying to control the locust swarms. For example, in Somalia, aerial spraying has been ruled out in areas not under government control, and in Yemen - the civil war may also have contributed to the outbreak.
Bill Hansson, a professor at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany told Bloomberg that: “Politics, climate and biology coinciding has allowed the formation of bigger swarms." And there is an added risk to the environment.
"We should be careful with spraying because it may kill other insects which are very useful in the ecosystem, such as bees for pollination,” Hansson said.
Locust swarm on February 3  2020.
Photo: Sven Torfinn
Locust swarm on February 3, 2020. Photo: Sven Torfinn
Sadder still is the knowledge that the locust outbreak is not limited to East Africa. In Pakistan, the country has declared a national emergency as swarms damaged or destroyed crops including wheat and cotton. The swarms crossed over into India and damaged crops in the northwest states that border Pakistan.
“Farmers’ traditional coping methods are ineffective,” Hansson said. “They have resorted to indiscriminate spraying of pesticides to address the problem, creating more problems.”
Scientists point to a changing world climate - Global warming is creating more extreme cyclones to form over warming ocean waters. The “sort of new normal,” says Dominique Burgeon, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emergency and resilience director, adding that the FAO has requested $76 million from international donors,m but so far, they have $19 million on hand.
More about desert locust, East africa, south sudan, national emergency, United Nations
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