- Eritrea, Sudan and Somaliland are strongly advised to carefully monitor "a developing and potentially dangerous situation" arising from second-generation locust infestations that are now developing, according to the latest UN update on of the crop-devouring insects.
"There have been several new developments in the past few days in three key areas," UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said, noting that the second-generation infestations from an outbreak in Eritrea in December are now concentrating in a 60 kilometres by 60 kilometres area on the Red Sea coast straddling the Sudanese-Eritrean border.
Late instar hopper bands and newly fledged adults are present in pearl millet crops in wadis - dry river beds - and in natural vegetation on the coastal plains. "Within a week, the majority of these populations will become adults and form small immature swarms," FAO warns.
As vegetation is drying out on the Red Sea coast, the swarms were likely to move further north along the coast in Sudan as well as west into the Eritrean highlands, the UN agency warned.
Ground control operations were in progress in both countries and were to be supplemented by aerial operations, expected to start this week, "to try to reduce the scale of the expected migration," according to FAO.
As a result of good rainfall and breeding during the past few months, small hopper bands are also present in the Silil area in the Awdal region of Somaliland near Djibouti. Somaliland is a self-declared independent republic in what used to be north-western Somalia.
According to FAO, "a few small immature swarms have already formed and more are expected in the coming weeks." The UN agency especially sees Somaliland threatened by a possible locust infection.
"These swarms could move in any direction – up the escarpment towards the Ethiopian border, northwest towards the Eritrean highlands, east along the coast, across the Gulf of Aden to southern Yemen, or simply stay on the coast and eventually breed once the long rains commence," FAO added.
"Vigilance is critical, particularly on the Red Sea coastal plains," FAO already warned in end-February. When vegetation begins to dry out, these locusts may form hopper bands and swarms that could move to neighbouring countries," FAO expert Keith Cressman explained. Since then, little more than vigilance by FAO experts has been done, leaving the locusts to develop into a threat.
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