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Coronavirus is making it harder to eradicate gigantic locust swarms that are wreaking havoc in East Africa.
The outbreak of locusts, which can be carried in part by the wind, has overwhelmed local officials in multiple countries — including Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and the Congo.
The COVID-19 crisis, which is straining public health systems and resources in multiple countries, has added a new layer of complication to the battle against the locusts.
“Obviously, the challenge for the international community will be to address the humanitarian needs of multiple layers of need and competing crises all over the globe,” Cyril Ferrand, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s East Africa resilience team leader, told Earther.
In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, desert locusts jump up from the ground and fly away as a cameraman walks past, in Nasuulu Conservancy, northern Kenya. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
As new cases of coronavirus have been seen in much of East Africa this month, the pandemic also is slowing the delivery of pesticides that can kill the insects.
“That’s the danger of the current situation where we have huge demands for assistance, combined with the fact that with covid-19, even the northern hemisphere is quite affected economically,” Ferrand explained.
The insects can completely decimate crops and devastate pasture for animals. This is particularly challenging in a region where agriculture accounts for major portion of economic activity.
Ferrand told Earther that disruption from COVID-19 has also caused shipping delays of up to 10 days for items like motorized sprayers and pesticides.
“Along with climate shocks, conflict and acute food insecurity, the East Africa region now faces a hunger threat from Desert Locust. This is a scourge of biblical proportions,” the FAO said.