The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $10 million commitment to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in support of efforts to combat a locust infestation in East Africa that poses a threat to food production and livelihoods across the region.
The commitment will support FAO's work with governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia to control the infestation, including support for aerial control of large swarms. The swarms have blanketed the Rift Valley, often referred to as East Africa's breadbasket, just before the start of the growing season in March. According to the foundation, a swarm covering just one square kilometer can quickly decimate food crops that would feed thirty-five thousand people for a year, and FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu has warned that the infestation could lead to a significant humanitarian crisis. It is the worst infestation Kenya has seen in seventy years and the worst in Somalia and Ethiopia in nearly a generation. Djibouti and Eritrea also are affected, and swarms have reached neighboring Tanzania and Uganda.
"Despite contributions by more than a dozen governments, donors, and the FAO, a significant funding gap remains," the foundation said, before issuing a call for "contributions from additional donors to avoid a greater impact on livelihoods and a potential humanitarian crisis in the region."
(Photo credit: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)