FAO Director-General says the fight against Desert Locusts will take time, despite significant control gains

ROME: The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, has warned that efforts to control Desert Locusts will take time, noting increased concern for the Sahel and Southwest Asia is adding to the burden of efforts ongoing in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

Qu was joined by the UN Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator, Mark Lowcock, on Thursday at a virtual briefing for FAO Members, regional organizations, partners, and other stakeholders as FAO raised its locust appeal to $311.6 million.

“Our gains have been significant, but the battle is long and is spreading to new areas,” Qu said. “It is clear that we cannot declare victory yet. Upsurges of this magnitude are rarely defeated in a few months.”

Qu welcomed the World Bank Group’s establishment of a $500 million programme to help countries in Africa and the Middle East combat the impact of locusts and appealed for additional support from other donors and partners.

Despite control operations, recent heavy rains have created ideal conditions for the pest’s reproduction in several countries. Young juveniles will become voracious adults in June just as farmers begin to harvest, compounding an already bleak food security situation.

“The locusts, combined with the impacts of COVID-19, could have catastrophic consequences on livelihoods and food security,” Qu emphasized.

Forecasts from the recently-released Global Report on Food Crises indicated that more than 25 million people will experience acute hunger in Eastern Africa in 2020, and an additional 17 million in Yemen. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely further undermine food security.

FAO rapidly supported governments in scaling up control activities in January and is launching an urgent appeal to support ten countries to contain the upsurge and anticipate devastating impacts on livelihoods and food security.

According to estimates, thanks to the campaigns carried out, some 720, 000 tonnes of cereal to have been saved so far

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