South Sudan, like many countries in East Africa, is facing an invasion of locusts. These foraging insects pose a threat to crops in a country already plagued by war and famine.
East Africa has been the target of an invasion of locusts for several weeks. The insects reached South Sudan on Tuesday, February 18, authorities said. These swarms that have already attacked Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, and Tanzania arrived in South Sudan on Monday via the Ugandan border in the south of the country, said the Minister of Agriculture Onyoti Adigo.
“Locusts are like humans, they send a vanguard to check if there is food and if the terrain is favorable for reproduction,” said the minister. According to the representative in South Sudan of the United Nations Agency for Agriculture and Food (FAO), Meshack Malo, some 2,000 locusts have already been spotted in the country. According to their dark yellow color, they are mainly individuals looking for spawning areas, he said.
The arrival of these locusts, which devastate crops, could prove catastrophic for South Sudan, where 60% of the population is already threatened by hunger, due to war, drought, and floods.
“The worst situation” in twenty-five years
“We are training people for spreading and we will also need insecticides and spreaders. We will also need vehicles, or even planes if it gets worse,” said the minister. In Kenya, the first swarms of locusts arrived from Somalia in the northeast in late December before reaching the center in January. To end the phenomenon, the government sent two planes to spray pesticides on locusts.
FAO considers this to be the “worst situation” that the Horn of Africa has experienced in a quarter of a century with regard to locusts. If the invasion phenomenon gets worse, in a year or more, it would be considered a scourge.
On February 10, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock expressed his deep concern. “There are 13 million people in the countries concerned who have difficulty accessing food. Ten million of these people live in areas affected by locusts,” he said at a conference in press at UN headquarters. And to specify that he had recently released urgently 10 million dollars to fight against this calamity.
There were six major locust invasions in the 20th century, the last of which occurred in 1987-89.