A grim report from the United Nations warns that unusually large swarms of locusts will be descending upon East Africa in the coming months, in what could be the worst infestation in a quarter century. The pests could pose a serious risk to crops and livelihoods in the region.
“The current swarms represent an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa,” declares a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The report goes on to note the swarm could spread, creating a “potentially threatening situation is developing along both sides of the Red Sea, where ongoing breeding is causing locust numbers to increase on the coasts of Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.”
The problem is currently “extremely serious” in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, where locusts have descended in alarming numbers. The FAO report warns that there’s also a good chance that some swarms could move to northeast Uganda, southeast South Sudan, and southwest Ethiopia. The number of locusts could increase 500-fold by June, reports the BBC. According to FAO, swarms can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer (0.39 square miles).
A single square kilometer filled with locusts can consume as much as 35,000 people in one day, according to the FAO. Adult locusts can eat their own weight—about two grams—of fresh vegetation, and travel upwards of 150 kilometers (93 miles), in a 24 hour period.