Locust swarms threaten Middle East, India, Africa amid COVID-19 outbreak #LocustSwarms #MiddleEast #India #Africa
Samburu men attempt to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Kenya, 2020 (photo credit: NJERI MWANGI/REUTERS)
Nations from east Africa to India are facing large swarms of desert locusts and could face an even worse second wave after an exceptional rainy season created favorable conditions for locusts to breed.
Earlier this year, a wave of locusts swept East Africa and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and has since spread to Iran, Iraq Pakistan and India. While the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that about 720,000 tons of cereal had been saved from the swarms in 10 countries, the threat still isn’t over.
“Our gains have been significant; but the battle is long and is not yet over”, said FAO chief Qu Dongyu on Monday. “More people are at risk of losing their livelihoods and worsening food security in the coming months.”
A map by the FAO shows that swarms are expected to spread into West Africa and throughout the Arabian Peninsula in the coming months, with new locust swarms expected to form in June.
While no swarms are currently expected to impact Israel, Jordan is considered “threatened,” according to a forecast map by the FAO. In February, Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture announced an “utmost state of emergency” as swarms descended on Saudi Arabia via Yemen. The Ministry also announced that it was closely monitoring regular reports issued by the Locust Forecast Center, situated within the Food and Agriculture Organization. Syria, which also borders Israel, was reportedly preparing for an outbreak as well.
Former Agriculture Minister Tzachi Hanegbi warned at the time that while there was only a low chance that the locusts will come to Israel, the forecast could change and preparations should be made in advance, according to Channel 12 news. An infestation in 2013 caused hundreds of thousands of shekels in damage to Israel’s agriculture industry.
Iran may use its military for a second year to help fight locusts which have invaded the south of the country, an Agricultural Ministry official was quoted as saying on Friday, as the swarms threaten to destroy crops worth more than $7 billion. Up to 1 million hectares of land throughout the country may soon be affected by the swarms.
The infestation originated on the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia being impacted by the swarms as well. In June, Yemen saw an outbreak of desert locusts for the first time in three years. Yemenis took advantage of the infestation as an alternative food source.
A one sq. km. swarm of locusts can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people, according to the FAO. UN Food & Agriculture Organization locust forecasting expert Keith Cressman explained that a locust swarm that enters a field in the morning can eat the entire field by midday. The insects can travel up to 93 miles a day.
One swarm in Kenya was three times the size of New York City, according to CNN. The number of locusts could grow 400 times by June if not treated. While desert locusts are usually only found in about 30 countries in Africa, the Near East and southwest Asia, they can spread into up to 60 countries over 29 million square kilometres (about 11.1 million square miles) during plagues, according to ReliefWeb.
All of this comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the world’s economy and food availability for many people.
World Food Program executive director David Beasley warned in April that the world is facing a “hunger pandemic” due to the locust swarms, regional conflict and the coronavirus pandemic, among other reasons. 821 million people go to bed hungry every night and another 135 million face crisis levels of hunger or worse, according to Beasley. The WFP found that the coronavirus pandemic has added an additional 130 million people who could be “pushed to the brink of starvation” by the end of this year.
Beasley added that, while there are no famines currently occurring, nations needed to prepare in order to prevent “multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”
In related news in Lebanon, residents “bugged out” over the weekend as swarms of beetles coated the country. “There’s a wave of insects in Lebanon rn [right now] and literally insects are flying everywhere we closed all the windows and they’re all glued to the windows,” wrote one Lebanon-based Twitter user, as others referred to the swarms as “apocalyptic.” They come as a series of misfortunes have racked the country, including wildfires, economic issues, food insecurity and the coronavirus, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The bugs swarming Lebanon were identified by the Lebanese agricultural Research Institute as the Common Sun Beetle, Black Dung Beetle and Spinola Bug. The beetles are harmless, the Director of the Agricultural Scientific Research Department, Michel Frenn, told the Lebanese MTV news.
Assurances of the harmlessness of the insects didn’t calm many residents. “The only thing Lebanon was missing were swarms of insects. Just make the world end already,” wrote one social media user, according to Al-Araby.
Courtesy of jpost.com
Flooding in Rann, Borno State, Nigeria. Credit: GISCOR
Flooding has once again hit areas of northeast Nigeria, severely affecting thousands of people in Borno State. Meanwhile the flood situation in neighbouring Adamawa state continues, with almost 20,000 people displaced.
The UN says the floods in Borno and Adamawa state are the worst in seven years. About 300,000 people have been affected so far this year, which is five times more than expected.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), flooding in the town of Rann, Borno State, has affected around 40,000 people, leaving them with little or no access to food or services. Many of those affected are internally displaced people (IDPs) living in refugee camps.
Flooding began on 07 November, 2019, after the River Kaalia broke its banks in neighbouring Cameroon. Parts of Far North Region in Cameroon were hit by flooding in late October.
UN OCHA reports that flooding has damaged an estimated 4,000 hectares of farmland, “destroying crops that are the main source of food for internally displaced persons (IDPs) staying in Rann, a remote town in an area where violent attacks from non-State armed groups are frequent and access is difficult for humanitarian assistance due to the high insecurity and poor road conditions.”
“Stranded populations are running short of food and those who can afford it are paying high sums to be transported to the other areas, also putting their life at risk while crossing the river or travelling to safety. More than 300 people from Rann have managed to reach Ngala, a town some 40 km away, according to the International Organization for Migration. They had managed to leave Rann before the road became impassable,” the UN added.
Humanitarian partners are mobilizing resources to reach the stranded population via the UN Humanitarian Air Services until access is secured for small boats. Providing food is the main priority, along with water, shelters and emergency health services.
In neighbouring Adamawa State, more than 100,000 people are also affected by severe flooding across seven Local Government Areas since 27 October, following torrential rainfall and overflow of water from the Niger and Benue rivers. Around 19,000 people have been displaced from their homes.
The UN and humanitarian partners are scaling up assistance in Adamawa State as well and have already provided reproductive health kits to more than 56,000 people; non-food items to 400 families; and farming items to 4,000 families in areas that were not reached by Government assistance.
Courtesy of floodlist.com
Flood damage in Bangui Central African Republic, late October 2019. Photo: Equipe Nationale de Réponse aux Catastrophe de la CRCA
Around 40,000 people have been displaced by flooding along the Ubangi River in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Flooding began in October after a period of heavy rain caused the Ubangi River to break its banks in parts of Sud-Ubangi and Nord-Ubangi provinces in DRC. Thousands of people were also displaced in neighbouring areas of Central Africa Republic during this time.
In DRC the worst hit area is the town of Zongo in Sud-Ubangi province, situated on the south bank of the Ubangi River, across from Bangui in the Central African Republic. Libenge in Sud-Ubangi province has also been badly affected.
At least 1 person is thought to have died in the floods. In Sud-Ubangi province 14,200 houses have been damaged, along with 12 schools, 21 bridges, 48 public buildings and wide areas of crops, according to local media. Around 9,000 people have been displaced by the floods in neighbouring North-Ubangi province.
Heavy rain caused flash floods in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early October this year, leaving at least 6 people dead and around 30 houses destroyed. Further heavy rain and floods hit the city during mid-October.
Courtesy of floodlist.com/
Floods have blocked roads in floods Tana River County, Kenya, October 2019. Photo: Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS)
Flooding across Kenya in the month of October has left at least 29 people dead and affected more than 101,000, according to the UN.
In a report of 30 October, 2019, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said heavy rain since the start of the short rains season in early October has led to riverine and flash floods, rock falls, mudslides and landslides.
More than 101,000 people have been affected, mainly in the north-eastern, central, and coastal regions, according to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS). Wajir County has been particularly hard-hit, with at least 43,000 people affected. Other affected counties include Marsabit, Mandera, Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kitui, Meru, Kajiado, Kwale, Nandi, Mombasa, Murang’a and Busia.
The KRCS has confirmed that at least 14,000 people have been displaced from their homes in low-lying areas where rivers have burst their banks.
At least 29 flood-related deaths have been reported and the death toll and number of people displaced is expected to rise in the days ahead as further information is received and verified from affected areas.
Nearly 400 hectares of farmland has been damaged and 21,710 livestock washed away, according to the KRCS, severely impacting livelihoods, including in areas already facing challenges due to drought.
Furthermore flooding has damaged or destroyed key infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools and health facilities.
The UN report said: “At least 52 schools are inaccessible in Mandera and Wajir counties and some 14 health facilities cannot be reached in Mandera, Wajir and Marsabit. Many parts of Mombasa County have reported power outages caused by fallen electricity pylons or water-soaked transformers. Two bridges, including one linking Diani and Lungalunga at Kinondoni and the main bridge linking Tanzania and Kenya at Mihogoni trading centre, have been badly damaged. In Lodwar town and surrounding areas in Turkana County, nine out of 12 water boreholes were destroyed, impacting about 70,000 people.”
The rains -driven by the strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)- are expected to continue in the days and weeks ahead, with most parts of the country likely to experience above average rainfall until early December 2019, according to the Kenyan Meteorological Department.
Courtesy of floodlist.com/