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Somalia Declares National Emergency over Locust Upsurge

FILE - Swarms of desert locusts fly up into the air from trees in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya, Jan. 24, 2020.
FILE - Swarms of desert locusts fly up into the air from trees in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya, Jan. 24, 2020.

The Somali government has declared a national emergency over a locust upsurge which is spreading in the East Africa region.

The Somali Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Said Hussein Iid said the desert locust poses a “major threat” to the country’s already fragile food security situation.

The first wave of locust swarms in Somalia last December destroyed about 100,000 hectares of farmland and pastures in Somalia, says Iid. He warns that an upcoming second wave will be even more destructive.

"The threat is very real,” Iid told VOA Somali.

The emergency national declaration was made in a statement issued by the Ministry of Agriculture & Irrigation on Saturday, and says the swarms are uncommonly large and consume huge amounts of crops and forage.

Iid says satellite information shows new swarms of locusts have arrived the country from the Gulf.

Iid says the biggest threat is from locally grown, locally matured locusts that could have a long effect on farming and pasture. The previous locusts that entered Somalia originated Yemen and were immature, Iid said.

"When it got matured inside Somalia they migrated to neighboring countries, but newly locally grown locust will be much dangerous compared to the migrated locust,” he said. “That is why we are calling this state of emergency, to be prepared to combat before its gets the maximum damage.”

He said millions of eggs were left behind by the previous wave and will likely emerge when the spring rainy season known locally as Gu’ starts in April.

"We are afraid there will be new generation of a swarm in Somalia which can cause severe damage both to pasture and the farms, and that will definitely affect the food security situation of the country,” Iid said.

Millions of Somalis are already relying on humanitarian support and officials warn that a second wave of locust will bring a bigger destruction.

The Somali government and international partners just last month appealed for more than $1 billion for humanitarian support to 3 million Somalis this year. The aid will include a monthly food assistance to 2.1 million people according to the humanitarian response plan.

Iid says the Somali government has trained several people in each district to conduct local awareness and “very slow means of controlling the immature swarm” but says these measures are not enough.

"The scale of the locust which comes to Somalia is well, well beyond our means of controlling,” Iid said. “That is why we are calling the international partners and the regional government to act together to fight this, to have common strategy to fight the pest.”

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization says it requires an initial $3 million initial response to fighting the locusts.