While skies are often darkened by thick clouds and heavy precipitation, there’s a much more ominous reason in portions of East Africa: swarms of hundreds of billions of locusts are filling the air, destroying crops and upending lives. Local officials say the clouds of hundreds of billions of locusts are the worst infestation they’ve seen in more than 25 years.
Locusts are a collection of short-horned grasshoppers that go through a swarming phase. In great numbers, they can wipe-out crops, harming the food supply needed by people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)of the United Nations, locusts don’t attack humans or animals and there doesn’t seem to be evidence that they carry diseases that could harm humans. Nevertheless, because of their sheer number, it’s difficult to walk outside without getting locusts in your mouth, in your hair, and in your clothes.
The United Nations has been encouraging member nations to help curb the locusts’ spread. The FAO has appealed for $138 million in urgent funding. Half of these funds would be given to impacted communities where food stocks have been stripped from crops; the other half would be used for pesticides to control their population.
Experts believe that tropical cyclones that left portions of the continent wetter than usual in 2018 followed by warmer than usual temperatures in 2019 helped spawn the massive population of locusts that’s spreading across eastern Africa, portions of the Middle East, and into southeastern Asia.
The swarms arrived in January and have become worse in recent weeks.