Despite recent improvements the locust threat remains serious in western Africa, vigilance and intensive control operations are still needed, and it will take another three months before the scale of any potential plague from the crop-devouring insects becomes clear, the United Nations warned today.
“Countries in West and North-West Africa have made great efforts in controlling the swarms coming out from the Sahel (Sahara border region), but only in March-April 2005 will it be possible to have clear indications on what scale breeding will occur and on what scale the Sahel will be reinvaded in summer," United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its latest locust update.
In North-West Africa, Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania continued intensive control operations against immature swarms during December while late forming swarms from summer breeding in the Sahel reinvaded parts of southeastern Mauritania and eastern Senegal, the agency noted.
Some of these swarms continued south into Gambia and southern Senegal, reaching central Guinea Bissau and probably northern Guinea. The swarms in Guinea Bissau have caused great concern there.
About 880,000 hectares were treated from the air and on the ground in West and North-West Africa during December, compared to 2.2 million in November. The total area treated since the beginning of the upsurge in October 2003 has now reached 12 million hectares, FAO said.
At the height last summer’s breeding season, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the crisis was potentially worse than the last plague of 1987-89, with some experts warning of famine and death in rural areas. The 1987-89 plague cost the international community $300 million to eventually bring under control.