As this week began, we were bombarded with many news stories, but the story I feel most relevant is taking place in Somalia and surrounding countries at this very moment. And sadly, it is expected to get much worse before any improvement in conditions is experienced. This is having a devastating effect on residents of those affected countries.
Last week, we read Parshat Bo, and amazingly the eighth plague of Locust appears in the very beginning of the Torah reading, approximately the same time this information on the latest locust plague became available. The timing of this latest news on the locust plague is very significant because the locust outbreak is the worst to strike Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and the worst infestation that Kenya had experienced in 70 years.
This information comes from The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information. It helps developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all. Since its founding in 1945, FAO has focused special attention on developing rural areas, home to 70 percent of the world’s poor and hungry people.
FAO in Somalia
FAO’s work in Somalia is guided by six strategic priorities: Increasing and stabilizing agricultural production and productivity and rural families’ incomes; Improving profitable and sustainable utilization of livestock resources; Sustainable fishing for increased incomes of fishing communities and fishermen; Managing natural resources for recovery and sustainable use; Supporting public-private partnerships and local institutions and groups; Improving preparedness.
January 30, 2020 –
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said the Desert Locust upsurge in the Horn of Africa threatened to provoke a humanitarian crisis and appealed for urgent funding to tackle the outbreak in order to protect livelihoods and food security.
FAO has already mobilized $15.4 million of the $76 million requested for the five countries but expects the needs will rise amid concern that the outbreak will spread to other countries, in particular South Sudan and Uganda.
The Desert Locust is considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.
FAO’s Desert Locust Information Service says the situation is extremely alarming and will be further exacerbated by new infestations expected in early April.
The Desert Locust upsurge represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods and has the potential to become a regional plague that could lead to further suffering and displacement. In South Sudan, where food insecurity is already at an emergency level in many parts of the country, the Desert Locusts could wipe out pastures and crops causing the deterioration of an already alarming situation.
Recently, Somalia’s Agriculture Ministry called the infestation of locusts a national emergency and a major threat to the country’s fragile food security situation.
The ministry added that the “uncommonly large” locust swarms were consuming huge amounts of crops.
It was the first country in the region to declare the pests a national emergency.
“Food sources for people and their livestock are at risk,” the ministry said.
Desert locusts are a species of grasshopper that live solitary lives until a combination of conditions promote breeding and lead them to form massive swarms.
“Given the severity of this desert locust outbreak, we must commit our best efforts to protect the food security and livelihoods of Somali people,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Said Iid.
“If we don’t act now, we risk a severe food crisis that we cannot afford.”
The UN has said $76 million (Dh279.1m) is needed immediately to East Africa.
A quick response is crucial. Experts warn that if left unchecked, the number of locusts could grow by 500 times by June, when drier weather will help to bring the outbreak under control.
The FAO says that if the current invasion gets worse and cannot be contained for a year or more, it would become what is known as a “plague” of locusts.
There have been six major desert locust plagues in the 1900s, the last of which was in 1987-89. The last time swarms were this big was in 2003 to 2005.
Is This An Indicator Of What Lies Ahead?
For the first time in many years that the ten plagues are read in Shul, Somalia and its neighboring countries are suffering from one of those plagues at the same time.
The 10 plagues began the period of the Egyptians suffering after the Jews had suffered for so many years, which led to the Jews escaping from Egypt while Pharaoh and his men perished.
We recently celebrated the liberation of Auschwitz and the beginning of the liberation of all the Jews from the concentration camps. And the destruction of the Nazi regime.
And Wednesday the Senate is scheduled to vote to throw out the Democratic Impeachment charges against President Trump, which appears likely to pass. Another sign that those wanting to Impeach the President suffered a huge defeat.
If ,therefore, the Democrats will not bring Omar to a formal hearing to answer charges of tax evasion and fraud, to name a few, then perhaps this plague in Somalia is G-d’s way of sending a message that this process of bringing her to justice has already begun. And it is her people back home who are now suffering for it.