UN urges immediate action to prevent desert locust catastrophe in Horn of Africa
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Monday urged the international community to take immediate action to help prevent the desert locust catastrophe in the Horn of Africa while countries in the region are in a race against time to tackle a desert locust invasion.
Locust threat in the Horn of Africa "is really, really challenging," UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.
"There are 30 million people in the affected countries - Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, who are severely food insecure. Now 10 million of those people are in the places affected by the locusts," he said.
"Unless we get a grip of this in the next two or three or four weeks, we're going to have a really, really serious problem," he noted.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently launched a 76 million-U.S.-dollar appeal to control the locusts' spread. So far, only around 20 million dollars has been received, said the UN humanitarian chief.
He called on the global community to respond quickly, as "there's a very small window."
Swarms crossed into Uganda overnight, and Tanzania and South Sudan are now "on the watch list," Lowcock said earlier in the day while briefing relevant ambassadors about the infestation situation.
"In this region where there is so much suffering and so much vulnerability and fragility, we simply cannot afford another major shock. And that's why we need to act quickly," said Lowcock.
Cyclones are the originators of swarms, Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer of FAO, told reporters.
In the past 10 years there's been an increase in the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean, he said.
The infestation in Kenya is the worst in 70 years, while Somalia and Ethiopia are experiencing their worst outbreaks in 25 years, putting crop production, food security and millions of lives at risk, the United Nations said on its website.
Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people faced high levels of food insecurity across the east African region long challenged by periodic droughts and floods, it said.