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FAO continues to battle locust upsurge in East Africa despite COVID-19 constraints

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is continuing its efforts to contain the desert locust upsurge in East Africa despite restrictions on the movement of personnel and equipment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The desert locust upsurge continues to remain alarming, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where it poses an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods.

In the six East African countries worst affected or at risk of locusts – Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania – around 20m people are already experiencing acute food insecurity, and a further 15m in Yemen, which is also being affected by the pest.

So far more than 240,000 hectares have been treated with chemical pesticides or biopesticides across the region and 740 people have been trained up to conduct ground locust control operations.  But COVID-19 has had an impact on the supply of motorized sprayers and pesticides.

“The biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is the supply of pesticides and we have delays because global air freight has been reduced significantly,” said Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa.

“Our absolute priority is to prevent a breakdown in pesticide stocks in each country. That would be dramatic for rural populations whose livelihoods and food security depend on the success of our control campaign.”

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