"Biblical" Plague of Locust attack Sudan!
Geneva - The United Nations' top humanitarian official on Thursday warned that swarms of locusts ravaging crops in north-west Africa were a greater threat to the livelihoods of millions of people in Africa than wars and appealed for urgent action.
"This is a much greater danger to livelihoods than any of the wars in the African region at the moment, Darfur included," UN Assistant Secretary General for humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland told journalists.
Egeland and other aid officials had described the crisis in the strife-torn western region of Sudan as the "world's worst humanitarian disaster".
The UN humanitarian chief called for urgent intervention against the locusts in coming weeks and sharply criticised a lack of international action to combat the locust plague despite months of warnings.
"If we lose the battle in the next five weeks, we will have a tenfold increase in the locusts swarms and they will go north," he said.
"Tens of millions of people in the poorest countries in the world will have no
food, no livelihood, because locusts have eaten everything in that area," he
Breeding swiftly in ideal climatic conditions, swarms of locusts have emerged in the past four months in Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia, growing in size and sweeping south and east into neighbouring countries.
"We are now seeing hundreds of billions of locusts creating havoc all over northern Africa. This should never have been allowed to happen," Egeland said.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which warned about the threat of locust plagues last autumn, has called for huge spraying campaigns to stop new larva hatching within weeks.
A FAO appeal for $9-million of international aid in the spring only brought in a few hundred thousand dollars in funding, Egeland said, and the needs have grown exponentially since then.
The FAO has since asked for $100-million, but Egeland said that amount might not
be enough "because the locusts swarms have reached biblical proportions".
Guinean radio reported on Wednesday that locusts have swarmed through southern Guinea near the border with Liberia.
The FAO has warned that, unchecked, the swarms could move across Africa and possibly reach into Asia.
Egeland was in Geneva to campaign for greater action to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. - Sapa-AFP
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