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Locust swarms confirmed in South Sudan as devastating plague spreads across East Africa and south-west Asia

18 February 2020

The UN confirmed on 18 February that the desert locust plague, which can migrate up to 150km a day, has now invaded south-east Sudan, entering from northern Uganda.

Many thousands are facing acute food shortages as vast swarms of desert locusts, considered the most destructive migratory pest on earth, have caused catastrophic loss to spring crops in East Africa and Pakistan.

Pakistani farmers have not seen a locust plague on this scale in the country. Even a small swarm of desert locusts, of just a square kilometer, can consume as much food in one day as 35,000 people

The locust swarms were initially reported to have spread from Yemen across the Red Sea in November 2019, before spreading south to East Africa, resulting in the worst outbreak seen in 70 years. Millions of locusts also entered into Pakistan’s agricultural belt, via Iran, in late 2019.

East Africa is now on the verge of a food crisis due to the locusts devouring crops, according to the UN, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Somalia the worst hit countries at this time.

Many countries struggling to contain vast locust infestation

Many East African countries have limited resources to implement aerial spraying and are struggling to control the infestation, which threatens to multiply by at least 500%  by the early summer months if not contained.

Thousands of Kenyan Christians facing food shortages in the badly hit East Pokot region have contacted Barnabas for aid. The drought, due to late rains, caused crops to fail and livestock to die in 2019. Now this years’ crops are being devoured by locusts, making food security even more precarious.

A national emergency has been declared in Ethiopia, where the infestation is the worst seen in 70 years.

National emergency declared in Pakistan as government steps in to control locust plague

The scale of the locust invasion is almost unheard of in Pakistan. The insects have ravaged around 30,000 acres of land in Sindh Province, one of the poorest rural regions of Pakistan.

Local farmers say at least 50% of wheat, rice, tomatoes, sugar cane and other crops have been destroyed. The cotton harvest – an important cash crop – was also devastated. Traditional methods of control are all but useless against the sheer scale of the infestation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has declared a national emergency and a government aerial spraying programme is underway to contain the locusts and allow crops to be planted safely for the next growing season.

“This was worst attack I ever seen in my life, like a flood of locusts, travelling and eating everything on its way,” said Ramoo. The 61-year-old Christian farmer (left) and his family depend on seasonal vegetable and biannual cash crops which were destroyed by the locusts

Barnabas is helping Pakistani Christian farming communities survive until the summer harvest

Thousands of Pakistani Christian families are now living on only one basic meal a day and malnutrition is on the rise, especially in children and nursing mothers.

Farmers have been unable to save their crops and many have had to sell their livestock, a precious asset, and household possessions to buy food. Some are so desperate that they are leaving their land in search of scarce labouring work.

Thanks to our generous supporters, Barnabas is sending vital food aid to 700 of the most badly affected and vulnerable Pakistani Christian farming families, to help them survive the next three months until the summer harvest. Each Christian family will receive a monthly staple food pack including flour, rice, dahl (lentils), sugar, tea, and salt.


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