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Somalia declares emergency after worst desert locusts invasion

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The Federal government of Somalia has on Saturday declared locust invasion an emergency situation, adding that "it could cause acute food shortages".

The government has now called for "urgent measures" to curb the escalating situation, which threatens to erode vegetation in the Horn of Africa nation.

Since October last year, locusts have invaded several parts of the country, almost causing a humanitarian crisis, local media reported.

The invasion was preceded by raging floods, which killed dozens of people besides displacing thousands, authorities said.

Invasion worst in the country's history

In a statement on Saturday, FGS said 'it is concerned about the risks desert locusts pose to the ’cropping season which starts in April.”

Virtually, all five states and Somaliland have been dearly affected. They include Puntland, Jubaland, Galmadug, Hirshebelle, and South-West.

“It is vital to contain the pests with a rapid scale-up in control operations while protecting and supporting the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists," read the statement.

By declaring the invasion of a national emergency, Somalia is not hoping to get relief from the international partners, analysts say.

Somalia government's commitment

Said Hussein, the country's Agriculture minister insisted that Somalia is committed to protecting citizens through "all available means".

“Given the severity of the locust outbreak, we must commit our best efforts to protect the food security and livelihoods of Somali people," he noted.

Hussein added: "If we don’t act now, we risk severe food crisis that we cannot afford by any means."

Mogadishu, he added, had put in place measures to curb the escalating situation through data collection, timely reporting among others.

At least 70,000 hectares of land has been severely destroyed by the locusts across the country, which is a desert by landmass, Reuters said.

Despite two months of continued destruction of vegetation, local media said, the government's input has been insignificant.

Kenya also badly affected

Kenya, a neighbor to Somalia, has also struggled to contain the menace, dispatching helicopters in the process to spray pesticides, officials said.

Most counties affected are neighbors to Somalia. They include Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Makueni, Marsabit, Isiolo and Tana River, local media reported.

Peter Munya, the agriculture boss, said that "it's not easy to fight locusts" and that "we expect to contain them in the next six months".

There is fear in Kenya that the invasion could spread to the Rift Valley and the Western part of the country, which is the basket for Kenya's food security.

UN's spirited intervention

QU Dongyu, FAO's Director-General, said recently that the invasion threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The locust outbreak is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya had experienced in 70 years.

Already, FAO has mobilized $15.4 million for emergency services to contain the insects, of the $76 million which was requested, Qu said.

"Timing and location are crucial. I hope we can work hard day and night so people do not lose their crops," Qu added.

FAO experts, UN said, are on the ground, supporting control operations and initiating efforts to safeguard livelihoods.

According to FAO's latest update on the Desert Locust upsurge, the current situation will be further worsened by breeding activity that will produce new locust infestations in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.


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