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Bill Gates donates $10 million as locust crisis in East Africa reaches ‘biblical proportions’


WASHINGTON, USA - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is sending $10 million to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help combat a devastating locust infestation in East Africa and Horn nations.

“The locust invasion is the worst Kenya has seen in 70 years, and the worst in nearly a generation in Somalia and Ethiopia,” the foundation said in a statement. “Djibouti and Eritrea are also affected, and swarms have now reached neighboring Tanzania and Uganda.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has applauded a $10 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight the upsurge of desert locusts in East Africa and called for more funding to help prevent a humanitarian crisis.

The foundation said its donation would help FAO supports governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia to combat locust infestation which poses a significant threat to food production and livelihoods in the region.

The outbreak is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst Kenya has experienced in 70 years.

FAO asked for $76 million in donations a month ago to control the outbreak, but swarms have only grown as they waited for help, they said. Now the cost of responding to the crisis has reached $138 million.

Djibouti and Eritrea are also affected and swarms have spread to the southeast of South Sudan and the northern edges of Uganda and Tanzania and as far as the south-west coast of Iran.

The upsurge is threatening people's livelihoods and food security in a region that is already serious food insecure

FAO has raised its appeal to $138 million from the initial $76 million sought a month ago.

"The upsurge is threatening people's livelihoods and food security in a region that is already seriously food insecure," FAO director-general QU Dongyu said.

"There is no time to waste."

The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory plant pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

Pasture and croplands have already suffered damage in East Africa and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where millions rely on agriculture and livestock rearing for survival.

WFP says the cost to respond to the food insecurity because of the locusts is at least 15 times higher than the cost of preventing the spread now.

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