Locusts swarm into crisis-hit South Sudan as plague spreads across east Africa

Invasion furthers food shortages in country struggling with drought and legacy of civil war

Desert locusts in Kitui County, Kenya. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA Picture taken January 24, 2020.

Swarms of locusts ravaging crops and grazing land across east Africa have reached South Sudan, already reeling from widespread hunger and years of civil war, the country’s agriculture minister said on Tuesday.

Desert locusts in Kitui County, Kenya. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti are battling the worst locust outbreak in decades, and swarms have also spread into Tanzania and Uganda.

Desert locusts can travel up to 150km (95 miles) in a day and eat their own body weight in greenery, meaning a swarm just one kilometre square can eat as much food as 35,000 people in a day, according to the United Nations.

Locusts sitting on a tree in Lekiji, Samburu East
Photograph: Sven Torfinn/E

The invasion is worsening food shortages in a region where up to 25 million people are suffering after three consecutive years of droughts and floods. MORE on this ongoing story in the Guardian: