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Why locusts are descending on East Africa

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In a region where food is already scarce, billions of insects are now eating everything in sight.

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Since late 2019, East Africa and the Middle East have been experiencing their worst locust outbreaks in decades. A small locust swarm can eat more food than 35,000 people; but some locust swarms in the area have grown to over two thousand times that size. And it’s all coming right on the heels of a season of catastrophic flooding in the region.

But that isn’t a coincidence: The desert locust thrives when dry weather turns wet. And in 2018 and 2019, a series of freak weather events brought record-setting rainfall to the Middle East and East Africa. The result of all this is a region at risk of a famine, in the middle of a pandemic. And because freak weather is a hallmark of climate change, it’s also the kind of thing we can expect to happen again.

Further reading / watching:

Read Vox.com science reporter Umair Irfan’s article on the locust outbreak:

One of the things that helped prime the region for locusts was an unusually strong Indian Ocean Dipole. Watch our piece about that here:

For more information on the locust upsurge, see the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s website:

And this FAO press conference from February helped me answer a lot of the questions in this piece:

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