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article imageNew, larger locust swarm hits Africa amid COVID-19 threat

By Karen Graham     Apr 10, 2020 in World
Parts of Africa, already dealing with the COVID-19 virus are again dealing with a second plague of locusts that pushes the coronavirus into second place in many areas. The second wave of locusts is 20 times larger than the outbreak in February.
Over 25 million hectares (61.8 million acres) of farmland are affected in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia - the three countries hardest hit by the voracious insects, reports Bloomberg.
Gro Intelligence, a privately funded commodity data, and analysis service said in an emailed report, “Approximately 18 million hectares, or 84 percent of crop-land in Ethiopia, is now affected by locusts,” while in Kenya and Somalia, 33 percent and 85 percent of crops are at risk, it said.
The second wave of locusts is 20 times larger than the first wave that hit earlier this year, one that was described as being near "biblical proportions." Amid the coronavirus outbreak, millions of vulnerable people have been put at even greater risk as they try to battle the swarming insects, quite often, in vain.
Locust swarm on February 3  2020.
Photo: Sven Torfinn
Locust swarm on February 3, 2020. Photo: Sven Torfinn
FAO / Newsroom
The threat from the coronavirus has become a topic that comes a distant second for many in rural areas. It is the locusts that “everyone is talking about,” said Yoweri Aboket, a farmer in Uganda, according to ABC News.
“Once they land in your garden they do total destruction. Some people will even tell you that the locusts are more destructive than the coronavirus. There are even some who don’t believe that the virus will reach here," he added.
People have resorted to banging cans and waving sticks to try to drive the locusts away
People have resorted to banging cans and waving sticks to try to drive the locusts away
The locust swarms have also been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, and Congo. Not only are the new swarms bigger, they include "young adults," voracious bugs "that eat more than the adult ones," said Kenneth Mwangi, a satellite information analyst at the Nairobi-based Climate Prediction and Application Center.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called the locust outbreak, caused in part by climate change, "an unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods. The FAO has raised its aid appeal from $76 million to $153 million. So far the FAO has collected $111 million in cash or pledges.
“The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as - an increasing number of new swarms are forming in Kenya, southern Ethiopia, and Somalia,” a new FAO assessment said.
More about Locusts, Africa, coronavirus, unprecedented threat, coronavirus lockdown
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