Desperate for aid

Published: Sunday 31 October 2004

This is the kind of crisis African nightmares are made of. Nine countries in the region between the Sahara Desert and the more fertile lands towards the south are reeling under an attack by millions of desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria), which devour vegetables, grains and clothing. The infestation would spread to other African countries, threatening food security in a wide area if international aid doesn't arrive soon, the un Food and Agriculture Organisation (unfao) has warned. But donors like the us, the eu and France have charged the unfao with lack of preparedness and slow dissemination of information about the crisis. The us recently said it would provide six crop-dusting planes to kill locust swarms and so save maize, rice, sorghum and millet crops in the region.

The unfao considers this the worst locust attack in the region in the past 15 years. It has asked for an aid of us $100 million to fight the menace. The locusts have spread to Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia and it is feared they might even reach northeast Nigeria and Sudan. They have destroyed about seven million hectares of farmland.

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