Egypt is using crop-dusting aircraft and is being helped by the military to combat the estimated 30 million locusts that began appearing in the skies over Cairo during the weekend of 2-3 March.
The insects’ arrival in the capital follows a state of emergency declared in a number of southern Egyptian provinces in late February. Now there are concerns that the locusts could reach Gaza City in the Palestinian territories north-east of Egypt.
Among the Cairo districts affected are the upmarket New Cairo and Moqatam areas in the south-eastern suburbs, where some citizens burned tyres in an attempt to get rid of the locusts. Previously, the locusts travelled through the Upper Egyptian city of Qena some 500 km south of the capital before making their way to the Red Sea city of Zafarana, 200 km south of Cairo.
The insects have been moving northwards from southeast Egypt between Berenice and the Sudanese border since last November. In addition to Egypt’s Red Sea coast, sightings have been reported in north-eastern Sudan, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.
The type of locusts currently in Egypt is considered the most dangerous to crops, and witnesses claim the swarms can be so thick that the sky turns red.
In 2004 Egypt suffered a serious infestation of locusts which damaged 38 per cent of the nation's crops.
One ton of locusts can eat the same amount of food in a single day as around 2,500 people, according to the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).