Somaliland: The worst plague of locusts in decades has hit Africa

By David Keith

The worst outbreak of desert grasshoppers in 25 years has spread to East Africa and poses an unprecedented threat to food security in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

Mohamed Omar from the Ministry of Agriculture holds an adult desert grasshopper in Aisha Ade in the Salal region of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland. (AAP)

In some cases, unusual climatic conditions are to blame.

The swarms of locusts hang in some places like shimmering dark clouds on the horizon.

Approximately as long as a finger, the insects fly together a million times, devouring harvests and forcing people in some areas to physically dig through them.

Near the Kenyan city of Isiolo, a young camel herder hit her with a stick on Thursday. Others tried to scream them away.

An “extremely dangerous increase” in locust swarm activity has been reported in Kenya, the East African regional authority reported this week.

A Samburu boy uses a wooden stick to try to blow up a flock of desert grasshoppers as he guards his camel near the village of Sissia in Samburu County, Kenya (AP).

A swarm measured 60 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide in the northeast of the country, the development agency said in a statement.

“A typical swarm of desert grasshoppers can contain up to 150 million grasshoppers per square kilometer,” it said.

“Swarms move with the wind and can travel 100 to 150 km in a day. An average swarm can destroy as many food plants in a day as is sufficient to feed 2500 people.”

The outbreak of desert grasshoppers, considered the most dangerous grasshopper species, has also affected parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea, and IGAD warns that parts of South Sudan and Uganda may come next.

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