he Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned on Wednesday that Somalia faces the worst desert locust outbreak in over 25 years and called for urgent funding to control further breeding.

The FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service said an estimated 70,000 hectares of land have been infested by hoppers and breeding adults, which have already damaged crop and pastures in Somalia and Ethiopia.

Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia said in a statement issued in Mogadishu that Desert Locust breeding is ongoing in Somaliland, Puntland and Galmudug.

Peterschmitt said the locust are affecting pasture and threatening staple food crops of agropastoral and pastoral families in rural areas.

“We are talking about a medium to long-term intervention. The impact of our actions in the short term is going to be very limited, but we can make a difference to support livelihoods and avoid further disastrous consequences for the next Gu season in 2020 if we act now,” he said.

According to FAO, the locust infestations have so far been confined to rangeland and grasslands areas in Somaliland and Puntland.

However, once adults form immature swarms, there is a greater possibility that some swarms will migrate south towards the Ethiopian border area with southern Somalia (Jubaland, South West and Hirshabelle federal members states) while other swarms will remain in place, mature and lay eggs for another generation of breeding, FAO said.

It said more than 100,000 hectares of land will in the next six months require direct control intervention in Somalia.

According to the UN agency, the fight against Desert Locust calls for immediate institutional, infrastructural and technical investments for larger scale actions in 2020 and beyond.

Peterschmitt said FAO requires an additional 3 million U.S. dollars for this initial response, noting that it has facilitated surveys covering over 20,000 hectares in Puntland and Somaliland.

“Given the scale of the disaster, aerial spray using airplanes would have been the ideal control measure. However, security conditions in most parts of Somalia do not allow it,” said Peterschmitt.