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Recognizing COVID-19's impact on the FAO desert locust crisis response

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As you are aware, the Greater Horn of Africa is currently experiencing the worst desert locust upsurge in a quarter of a century. In response, FAO is making every effort to support government-led control and surveillance operations, as well as livelihood interventions, in the affected countries. Supporting these activities has nevertheless been complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While the new desert locust information dashboard presents an overview of the desert locust situation and ongoing response activities, it is also important to provide an update on how the Organization, in the context of the various challenges emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, is working to maintain operations to contain the spread of desert locust and safeguard livelihoods in the affected regions.

In terms of control operations, FAO is currently supporting the operation of five planes in Ethiopia and Kenya. Fortunately, the flying crews for these aircraft reached both countries before confinement measures came into effect. While COVID-19 has not directly impacted these crews, it has prompted concerns among aircraft companies and reduced the number of responsive offers to FAO tenders for additional planes.

Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the supply of pesticides, with delays already experienced due to reduced manpower and the postponement of the delivery of purchased orders. Confinement measures may also impact the Organization’s plans to deploy technical experts to the field. To meet these challenges, FAO is already exploring all possible options to avoid any shortfall in the supply of pesticides and any gaps in personnel.

Within the countries affected by the desert locust upsurge, control and surveillance operations have not been interrupted, thanks to the fact that governments are prioritizing such activities. However, confinement measures may delay the arrival of eight additional helicopters and flying crews, which FAO has engaged for further surveillance actions.

During this challenging time, we are committed to keeping our partners informed of this developing situation. With the COVID-19 pandemic potentially impacting control and surveillance operations, as well as the deployment of experts to the field, your continued support is greatly appreciated to help safeguard the livelihoods of people living in desert locust-affected regions.

Dominique Burgeon (Mr)
Director, Emergency and Resilience Division
Strategic Programme Leader - Resilience
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations