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Ethiopian govt calls for international support to contain “very severe” desert locust outbreak

The Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture on Thursday called on its international partners to support ongoing efforts to avert desert locust-inflicted food insecurity in the country.

Noting that about 3 to 5 locust swarms are currently active in parts of the East African country, the ministry stressed that the desert locust situation “is very severe which needs intervention of several stakeholders including the international community,” state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted officials at the ministry as saying on Thursday.

As the country embarked on its second rainy season, the Ethiopian government is battling against time to control the spread of desert locust influx, in which the country has so far managed to spry chemical on 112,000 hectares of land infested by the desert locust swarms across different parts of the country.

“The Ethiopian government is exerting maximum efforts to mobile resources from several stakeholders and partners in bid to protect the spread of locust swarms,” Sani Redi, Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture, said.

According to the state minister, the locust is expected to upsurge in Ethiopia until the end of August, in which the situation could be further exacerbated by new swarm breeding, which may produce more locust swarms.

The Ethiopian government, which has so far allocated 30 million Ethiopian birr (about $1 million) funding in addition to financial pledges from its partners to support the prevention and controlling mechanisms in the coming months, also stressed that it’s intensifying preventative and controlling measures with support from its international and bilateral partners, such as the government of China and the United Nations.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) pledged to support about $4.5 million and 220,000 litres of chemicals to help Ethiopia in tackling the desert locust swarms, according to Redi.

The state minister, however, stressed that allocating financial budget “is not enough to control the swarms,” as he emphasized the greater need to deepen the general public’s awareness on how to control the locust before experts reached the places is imperative.

“We have already tasked our experts to train farmers in simple and effective ways so as to control the swarms, and they are now providing trainings to the framers with particular emphasis on swarm prevention mechanisms,” ENA quoted Redi as saying.

As the East African country enters into its February-May rainfall and harvesting season, known locally as Belg, the fight against locust invasion has taken an important dimension, with an ultimate goal of preserving the vegetation being planted across Ethiopia’s major crop-producing areas from the desert locust devastation.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the ongoing desert locust invasion across different parts of Ethiopia “is further compounding the humanitarian landscape” in the country, in which the desert locust infestation has so far affected some 180 Woredas (local administrative districts) across the country.

Noting that some 17.8 million people are living in areas affected by the desert locust as of mid-January, the UNOCHA in its latest humanitarian update also stressed that an ongoing assessment will provide an overview of the impact of the desert locust infestation on food security and livelihoods by mid-March.

Amid the regional desert locust outbreak, the FAO had also recently warned that the locust invasion could further exacerbate the already dire food insecurity situation across the region, in which some 20.2 million people are already facing severe acute food insecurity in the affected East African countries that are Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

“Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people have been facing high levels of food insecurity across the east African region, long challenged by periodic droughts and floods,” the FAO had said.

By XINHUA

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