28 February, Rome – FAO Director-General QU Dongyu has welcomed a €17 million contribution from Germany to provide assistance to those directly affected by the Desert Locust upsurge in East Africa.
Germany’s Permanent Representative to FAO, Ulrich Seidenberger, made the announcement at FAO headquarters in Rome. The new pledge comes after Germany already contributed €3 million.
“I want to thank Germany for its generous contribution and for recognizing the urgent need to alleviate the alarming impact of the Desert Locust upsurge,” Qu said. “We are working to curb the locusts’ spread but we also need to safeguard livelihoods and promote early recovery.”‘
FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service says it is the worst outbreak to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya has experienced in 70 years. Djibouti and Eritrea have also been affected, and locusts have been reported in South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, although the situation there is less dire.
This week new swarms appeared in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and reached the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Director-General stressed the situation was extremely alarming in East Africa, a region where 20 million people are already considered food insecure. There, the swarms have laid eggs and in a few weeks’ time, these will mature, and start to eat crops – right at the start of the region’s main agricultural season.
“Fighting the locusts is half the battle. The other half is helping the people affected,” QU said. “Germany’s support will enable FAO to provide much needed support to the farmers and their families.”
The Desert Locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world. A swarm covering one square kilometer contains 40 million locusts that can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.
Pasture and croplands have already suffered damage in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and there are potentially severe consequences for the region where millions rely on agriculture and livestock rearing for their survival.
FAO has appealed for $138 million in urgent funding to assist the countries that have been impacted. Germany’s announcement raises the amount pledged by donors to $69 million.
FAO has surged 15 locust experts and other personnel to support governments with surveillance and coordination of locust control activities, technical advice and the procurement of supplies and equipment for aerial and ground operations.
Of the $138 million, FAO has earmarked more than $60 million to curb the spread of the disease; over $67 million to safeguard livelihoods and promote early recovery; and close to $10 million to promote regional co-ordination and preparedness.
Desert Locust monitoring, forecasting and control are at the heart of FAO’s mandate. Its Desert Locust Information Service has been in operation for nearly 50 years. FAO’s well-established field presence, ability to link up authorities from different countries, and expertise in Desert Locust management make it a key player in responding to upsurges like that currently affecting East Africa and the Red Sea area.