Madagascar millions face famine from locust plague

B. McPherson

As many as 13 million people will face famine if the recurring  locust plague is not curbed this year. The insects which resemble large grasshoppers hatch in the billions and create huge hungry swarms which can devastate a field of crops, eating everything green. It has been estimated that the swarms consume over 100,000 tonnes of greenery every day.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO) is pleading for funding to combat this year’s hatch of eggs which is expected to coincide with the end of the rainy season in May. To date nearly US$29 million has been spent on a variety of methods to fight the insects over the past two years. The programme was planned for a three year stint, but funds are drying up. The FAO needs more than US$10 million to fund this year’s effort. They warn that if measures are not taken the previous years’ efforts may go to waste.

Some money is being provided by the Madagascar government but accusations have been made of incompetence and most of the funds go for salaries.

Madagascar has more woes than locusts. They are currently coping with bubonic plague spread by a mushrooming rat population. A combination of tropical storms, flooding and people and rats displaced has increased the rat/people interactions and led to 57 deaths from bubonic plague since January.

The disease is caused by bacteria that live on fleas carried by rats but the fleas can jump to humans and when they bite, spread the disease. Now it appears that some of the fleas are resistant to the pesticide of choice.

The outbreak that started last November has some disturbing dimensions," the WHO said this week. "The fleas that transmit this ancient disease from rats to humans have developed resistance to the first-line insecticide." CNN
The Guardian                 
News Discovery                              



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