ROME, ITALY — Qu Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, on May 21 warned that efforts to control Desert Locusts will take time, noting increased concern for the Sahel and Southwest Asia is adding to the burden of efforts ongoing in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

Qu was joined by Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary general and emergency relief coordinator, at a virtual briefing for FAO members, regional organizations, partners, and other stakeholders as the FAO raised its locust appeal to $311.6 million.

“Our gains have been significant, but the battle is long and is spreading to new areas,” Qu said. “It is clear that we cannot declare victory yet. Upsurges of this magnitude are rarely defeated in a few months.”

Qu welcomed the World Bank Group’s establishment of a $500 million program to help countries in Africa and the Middle East combat the impact of locusts and appealed for additional support from other donors and partners.

Despite control operations, recent heavy rains have created ideal conditions for the pest’s reproduction in several countries. The FAO noted that young juveniles will become voracious adults in June just as farmers begin to harvest, compounding an already bleak food security situation.

“The locusts, combined with the impacts of COVID-19, could have catastrophic consequences on livelihoods and food security,” Qu emphasized.

Forecasts from the recently released Global Report on Food Crises indicated that more than 25 million people will experience acute hunger in Eastern Africa in 2020, and an additional 17 million in Yemen. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely further undermine food security.

The FAO rapidly supported governments in scaling up control activities in January and is launching an urgent appeal to support 10 countries to contain the upsurge and anticipate devastating impacts on livelihoods and food security.

According to estimates, thanks to the campaigns carried out, some 720,000 tonnes of cereal have been saved so far.