, ROME, Italy, Feb 24 – FAO Director-General QU Dongyu received a Sh1
billion donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the
fight against the Desert Locust upsurge in East Africa as the UN agency
expanded its appeal.
& Melinda Gates Foundation said its donation would assist FAO as it
supports governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia to combat locust
infestation that is posing a significant threat to food production and
livelihoods in the region.
“I want to
thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its generous support as the
Desert Locust threatens to provoke a humanitarian crisis,” Qu said.
“I urge other donors to follow their lead so we can protect rural
livelihoods and assist farmers and their families.”
The latest locust
outbreak is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst
infestation that Kenya has experienced in 70 years.
According to FAO’s Desert
Locust Watch, Djibouti and Eritrea are also affected, and swarms have spread to
the south east of South Sudan and the northern edges of Uganda and Tanzania and
as far as the south-west coast of Iran.
FAO has now raised
its appeal to $138 million, from the initial $76 million a month ago, in urgent
funding to assist the countries that have been impacted. So far $33 million has
been pledged or received.
Qu said the
situation was extremely alarming and the next few weeks would be critical for
mounting an effective containment operation.
is threatening people’s livelihoods and food security in a region that is
already seriously food insecure,” he said. “There is no time to
The Desert Locust
is considered the most destructive migratory plant pest in the world and a
small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in
one day as 35,000 people. Under the right weather conditions, they
reproduce rapidly and the population could multiply 500 times in the next six
croplands have already suffered damage in East Africa and there are potentially
severe consequences for the region where millions rely on agriculture and
livestock rearing for their survival.
The Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation’s support is intended to help FAO and national
governments confront the critical need for rapid control of the
infestation, including aerial control of large swarms.
FAO is already
helping governments and other partners with monitoring and surveillance and
coordination assistance during control operations.
The UN agency is
also preparing to take action to protect rural livelihoods by providing
affected growers with farming packages, veterinary care for livestock, and cash
to families who have lost their crops so that they can purchase food.