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Donations Needed Locust Plague In Northwest Africa

Urgent Donations Needed To Prevent Locust Plague In Northwest Africa - UN

Warning of an "extremely serious" threat of a desert locust plague in northwest Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched an urgent appeal for international donor help to prevent an even greater upsurge over a vast swath of territory stretching from Morocco and Algeria down into Niger.

In its latest update, the agency noted that despite control operations, the situation continued to be extremely serious. "If operations are not effective during the summer, this could not only have a dramatic impact on food security within the region but the current situation could develop into a plague by the end of the year," FAO cautioned.

"International donor assistance is urgently required to prevent a plague from developing," the agency's Locust Group warned, noting that there were signs now that the situation was moving towards the early stages of an upsurge.

In Morocco, intensive aerial and ground control operations, treating up to 20,000 hectares per day, are in progress against swarms that are laying eggs in the spring breeding areas in the Draa Valley on the southern side of the Atlas Mountains, and it is likely that similar infestations extend into western Algeria, the group said.

In the next few weeks, more swarms are expected to arrive in Morocco and Algeria from northern Mauritania and the Western Sahara where widespread hatching continues and adults are forming swarms, some of which have been seen moving northwards.

In Niger, adult densities are increasing in the southern Air Mountains where egg-laying and hatching are in progress. Many small swarms were seen moving northwards in early March and may appear in southern and central Algeria.

Control operations are in progress in the affected countries but national resources are rapidly being drained. During the first half of March, more than 250,000 hectares were treated in Morocco, compared to about only 2,000 in Mauritania where a severe shortage of funds for pesticide and operations continues to limit the ability to reduce the number of swarms that will eventually move towards breeding areas.

Last month, FAO launched an urgent appeal to donors for $6 million to support and maintain operations in Mauritania and another $3 million for Mali, Niger and Chad to avert a plague. The last plague in 1987-89 and cost more than $300 million before it came to an end.

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