World Bank approves record $500 mln to battle locust swarms

Elias Hubbard
May 23, 2020

Locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the biggest outbreak in 70 years, the World Bank said. States are adopting various means to control the swarm of locusts.

The new World Bank program will help farmers, herders and rural households by providing fertilizer and seeds for new crops, and cash transfers to pay for food for people and livestock.

Restrictions because of the virus have already hampered food supply chains, causing a substantial price hike in food.

The institutionalised mechanism of Locust Warning Organization could be energised for such cooperation, sources said.

He later told a United Nations briefing in NY that "the locust invasion is most serious now in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia" and is also 'very serious in southern Iran and in parts of Pakistan'. Thereafter, there is a risk that swarms will migrate to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border as well as to Sudan and perhaps West Africa.

He said the latter 'could be supplemented by other swarms coming from East Africa, or coming from northern Somalia'. India participates in the meetings/ sessions of the FAO's Desert Locust Control Committee; participates and organizes the meetings/sessions of FAO's Commission for Controlling Desert Locust in South West Asia; and participates in the Joint Survey Programmes with Pakistan and Iran organized by FAO.

Chad, Niger and Mauritania could be affected - another burden for a region under growing threat from extremist attacks.

The FAO has also made an appeal to the global community for about $153 million to fund these increased operations.

The country has already spent about Shs20 billion on fighting locusts.

The number of locusts continues to swell despite control efforts.

The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors on Thursday, May 21, 2020 approved financing of $48 million (about Shs180b) from the International Development Association (IDA) to help Uganda prevent and respond to the threat to livelihoods posed by the desert locust outbreak and to strengthen its national and regional systems for preparedness. "These resources are timely to support affected households cope, and to strengthen Government's response efforts", said Tony Thompson, Country Manager, World Bank. Even with the measures, losses could be as high as $2.5 billion, it said.

Recent floods in parts of East Africa have killed almost 300 people and displaced 500,000, slowing locust control work and increasing the risk of the virus' spread, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Food and health officials are anxious the locusts - along with the COVID-19 crisis - could lead to more people starving to death.

'We are facing an unusually complex humanitarian situation, ' Simon Missiri, the group's Africa director, said in a statement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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