A locust outbreak of so-called “biblical proportions” is spreading through Africa, from Sudan and Eritrea, along both sides of the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation has warned.
And the huge swarms have generated comparisons to one of the 10 plagues of Egypt.
The biblical phenomenon, described in the Book of Exodus, said God delivered the plagues upon Egypt after the pharaoh refused Moses’ demand to set free enslaved Israelites.
Keith Cressman, the UN’s locust expert, warned: “The next three months will be critical to bring the locust situation under control before the summer breeding starts.
“The further spread of the current outbreak depends on two major factors — effective control and monitoring measures in locust breeding areas of Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries, and rainfall intensity between March and May along both sides of the Red Sea and in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula.”
The bible-like outbreak has been caused by long periods of rain around Sudan and Eritrea that have contributed to two generations of breeding and a substantial increase in locusts, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has explained.
One swarm crossed the border to Saudi Arabia in mid-January, with further swarms following suit a week later.
One Twitter user said: “Plagues are a long part of the End Time story, aren’t they?”
Adult locust swarms can fly up to 93 miles a day with the wind and can consume roughly their own weight in fresh food per day, posing a great threat to crops and food security.
According to Cressman, the last major locust outbreak was detected between 2003 and 2005 when over 12 million hectares were treated in Africa.
The UN FAO is expected to hold a meeting in Jordan over the next few days to address intensifying control measures with the affected countries.