An invasion of locusts is predicted to hit West Africa in the coming weeks as a food crisis in the region enters a new desperate phase.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has issued an alert for northern Mali and Niger where swarms of locusts are expected to build in June. According to the FAO, the swarms are currently brewing near the Algeria-Libya border; a result of heavy rainfall late last year, conflict and a lack of pest control. They threaten to destroy remaining crops in a region already devastated by drought.
And in a cruel twist, young children across the region are scavenging for locusts and insects to survive the worsening food crisis.
“We’ve begun hearing reports of young children hunting and surviving off insects as food rations in their village or community run dry,” said World Vision Australia’s head of Humanitarian & Emergency Affairs Anthea Spinks. “These are heartbreaking stories of survival which highlight the plight of millions of children in West Africa, and sadly the situation is only predicted to get worse.”
Already around 4 million children in Niger, Mali, Chad, Senegal and Mauritania are at risk of acute malnutrition, and 1 million of them are facing the most severe form.
Overall, 18 million people are now in need of food assistance with aid workers predicting June will be critical for families and the vulnerable. Not only have erratic rains and locusts destroyed crops, but in some places the cost of staple foods has increased by up to 100 per cent in three months – the equivalent of a box of cornflakes at a supermarket going from $5.40 to almost $11 since March.
Ms Spinks said the West Africa food crisis is presenting an enormous challenge to aid agencies. “We genuinely are looking at a catastrophic situation if the global community doesn’t act soon,” she said.
World Vision is aiming to raise $60 million to provide aid to 1.1 million people across the region, but the organisation’s efforts to respond to the crisis have been hampered by a funding shortfall. World Vision Australia has collected less than $250,000 through its West Africa Food Crisis Appeal, compared to $6 million raised last year for East Africa.
The funding shortfall is being felt across the board, with the United Nations and other agencies also expressing a desperate need for funds. The UN says only half of the $1.5 billion needed has been raised.
Donate to the West Africa Food Crisis Appeal at www.worldvision.com.au or call 13 32 40.
Media contact: Kate Rose – 0418 528 683 / email@example.com