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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 02:26 GMT 03:26 UK
Locust plague threatens Madagascar
Locust
Swarms can devour a fields of crops in a few minutes

Madagascar, which is still trying to recover from both a major political crisis that ruined the economy and a tropical storm which flooded large areas in the east of the island, now has a new threat - locusts.

The lack of funding during the political stalemate which lasted seven months has allowed the insects to get out of control.

Now an emergency programme is being launched to try and prevent the locusts spreading around the country as they did in the last big outbreak six years ago.


The situation is worse than in '96, which means that there could be huge losses of crops

Didier Young, Care International
Humanitarian organisations say it is just another problem they did not need, and although the political crisis is over, people are still suffering.

The locusts have invaded about 450 hectares of land - a much larger area than that covered by the last invasion in 1996.

Then and over the following three years, the locusts spread across the entire country and caused widespread damage.

It eventually cost US$40m to wipe them out.

Urgent action needed

A programme to keep the locust population low has been neglected by lack of funding during the political crisis, and now they are presenting a new and potentially more damaging threat.

Didier Young, emergency coordinator for Care International in Madagascar, says the locusts have been breeding and now there are many young insects swarming in the south. "The situation is worse than in '96, which means that there could be huge losses of crops," he said.

Some funds have been raised to tackle the problem, but action urgently needs to be taken.

Meanwhile, the levels of malnutrition in the capital are still at a serious level as a result of poverty caused by the economic collapse during the seven-month crisis.

Food is being handed out, but with a hundred thousand people losing their jobs, it will be many months before the shortages come to an end.


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23 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Apr 02 | South Asia
22 Jun 01 | Media reports
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