FAO Director-General QU Dongyu has welcomed a $10 million donation from Mastercard Foundation to step up the fight against the desert locust outbreak in East Africa amid concern about an imminent upsurge in numbers.

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The desert locust upsurge continues to be alarming, particularly in Ethiopia, Somaliland, Kenya and Somalia, where it threatens food security and livelihoods. In the seven East African countries worst affected or at risk of locusts – Somaliland, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania – 20.2 million people are already experiencing acute food insecurity.

“I thank Mastercard Foundation for its generous contribution as the desert locust threatens to provoke a humanitarian emergency,” QU said. “It is crucial that we act hand in hand, scale-up efforts to contain the locusts and protect the livelihoods of millions of farmers and their families.”

Mastercard Foundation said its contribution over the next 12 months aims to assist FAO with the early detection of locust swarms, ground and aerial spraying operations, and impact assessments that would promote a sustainable and responsible locust campaign. It will focus on an area spanning 50,000 hectares across seven affected countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.

“It’s clear that the desert locust infestation poses an unprecedented threat to the affected communities, and particularly to the economic livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said Mastercard Foundation President and CEO, Reeta Roy.

According to FAO’s Locust Watch, the situation in East Africa is extremely alarming with new swarms expected to mature soon in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia and probably in Somalia.

Most of the swarms will remain for another generation of breeding and further increase locust numbers while a few could move from Kenya to South Sudan and Uganda. Locust swarms are also forming in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Yemen following widespread rains in the region.

FAO recently scaled up its desert locust appeal to $153.2 million and so far $114.4 million has been pledged or received. The UN agency is continuing its efforts to contain the upsurge despite restrictions on the movement of personnel and equipment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The desert locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a single swarm covering one square kilometer contains up to 80 million locusts.

FAO estimates the number of locusts could increase another 20 times during the upcoming rainy season unless control activities are stepped up. If this does not happen the upsurge would immediately be reflected in the financial needs of the campaign.

FAO is already helping governments and other partners with monitoring and surveillance and coordination assistance during control operations. The UN agency is also preparing action to protect rural livelihoods by providing affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care for livestock, and cash for families who have lost their crops so that they can purchase food.

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