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World News

Bishop raises concerns over East Africa locust crisis as Christian peer warns it is not getting the attention it deserves

by Ruth Sax

In the House of Lords on Tuesday the Bishop of St Albans Rt Rev Alan Smith raised concerns about the locust crisis in East Africa, asking the Government to "ensure immediate food aid if it is required and, in the longer term, that there is seed for next year's crops so that people have security."

Somalia has declared a national emergency as large swarms of locusts spread across East Africa.

The country's Ministry of Agriculture said the insects, which consume large amounts of vegetation, posed "a major threat to Somalia's fragile food security situation".

Christian Lord Griffiths raised concern that not enough of was being done to raise awareness of the situation in East Africa: "I cannot help thinking of all that is happening to combat the coronavirus epidemic, which has activated responses from all the continents of the earth, and contrasting that with foreseeable and regular outbreaks of the pestilence that we have recently seen television shots of-whatever we ascribe as the causes of all this. 

"Many of us have lived in countries where that kind of thing happens and therefore cannot see them other than from the perspective of the people affected.

"When will the world wake up to the need to address, on behalf of the voiceless, as much of its energy and heart warming sympathy to areas like this as it does to the other instance-without wanting to simplify or compare them in an inappropriate way? Is it not time for our Government, speaking perhaps for the global community, to increase levels of awareness and response?"

There are fears that the situation may not be brought under control before the harvest begins in April.

Swarms of the insects have been reported 40 miles wide and the UN says the swarms are the largest in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Kenya has not seen a locust threat as severe in 70 years, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

However, Somalia is the first country in the region to declare an emergency over the infestation.

Joseph Kamara, World Vision's Director of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs, for East Africa told Premier the impact on farmers could be devastating.

"It's extremely dangerous especially the poor people in rural areas who predominantly depend on the farming and are mainly subsistence farmers.

"The pests when they come they consume large quantities of vegetation. That includes food and non-food vegetation, including grass and hay for livestock, they consume all. Once they eat, they lay eggs and then they move on. So the big threat is when the head eggs hatch [and] the cycle begins again."

He added: "We really need prayer first and foremost for wisdom and for God to intervene and help to bring weather conditions that bring an end to this epidemic, this outbreak.

"Also for opportunities to raise awareness so the world out there knows what's happening in the region, because right now people are busy reporting the coronavirus and other challenges and nobody's talking about this, but this could expose thousands, millions, of people to starvation in the next few months. This is going to be a really bad situation, a very bad crisis.

"Pray for humanitarian workers and the people in the communities who are also dealing with droughts and floods and now locusts. It is difficult to justify why it is all happening now," Kamara said.

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