The New Crisis: Locust Swarms in East Africa

A young Kenyan girl and boy struggling in a swarm of desert locusts
A young Kenyan girl and boy struggling in a field of crops with a swarm of flying desert locusts.

Several governments in East Africa have declared that new locust infestation as a state of emergency. The UN warns of potential food crises in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. These desert locusts eat everything that comes into their path, consuming the crops farmed by local people.

This year's locust breeding is on an alarmingly bigger scale than previous years. Locusts breed rapidly, but only when the conditions are right, so their population is controlled. Unfortunately, climate change has produced excessive havens of perfect conditions for their breeding.

After months of droughts, Kenya was suddenly hit with heavy rainfall and cyclones. At first, farmers rejoiced, for they finally had water supply to care for their crops. Sadly, it was too early to celebrate. Excessive amounts of water and humidity are allowing the locust population to continue multiplying exponentially.

Crops that survived the drought are now meals for the newly hatched locusts and their hungry parents, instead of the local people. People have turned to desperate means to protect their remaining precious crops, such as clamouring pots and pans or batting the insects in the air with battered shirts, all while running screaming in the fields. This year's mass breeding is the worst Kenya has seen in the last 70 years, and the worst Somalia and Ethiopia has seen in the last 25 years. Check out the BBC's reporting on this issue for more detailed explanations.

After reading about this new crisis, I felt compelled to take action immediately. I began to research any initiatives being done I could contribute to. To my shock and disappointment, there were very few. That's why I'm sharing this here to raise awareness about this issue. Here are the actions I believe should be taken immediately:

- The UN's World Food Programme Food and Agricultural Agency should stockpile on food aid packages to prepare for major food shortages

- The World Health Organization (WHO) should remain diligent on monitoring areas the levels of malnutrition and sanitation standards in areas affected by locusts, to prevent a medical crisis too

- Humanitarian aid organizations, of all kinds, should increase their use of delivery through drones, helicopter, and cargo plane systems and strengthen their coordination with local military forces to operate effectively in conflict zones

- More donation funds should be invested in aerial spraying to rid areas of locusts

Crises like this are only going to become more common as time goes on and climate change worsens. The youth ought to foresee future threats to food security, risks of famine, and even outbreaks of diseases and infectious plagues that could prey on weakened immune systems.