Somalia hit by worst desert locust invasion in 25 years

By Giulia Paravicini

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Desert locusts are destroying tens of thousands of hectares of crops and grazing land in Somalia in the worst invasion in 25 years, the United Nations food agency said on Wednesday, and the infestation is likely to spread further.

The locusts have damaged about 70,000 hectares of land in Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia, threatening food supplies in both countries and the livelihoods of farming communities, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

An average swarm will destroy crops that could feed 2,500 people for a year, the FAO said.

Conflict and chaos in much of Somalia make spraying pesticide by airplane – which the FAO called the “ideal control measure” – impossible, the agency said in a statement. “The impact of our actions in the short term is going to be very limited.”

Ashagre Molla, 66, a father of seven from Woldia in the Amhara region 700 km (435 miles) north-east of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said he had so far received no help from the government.

“I was supposed to get up to 3,000 kg of teff (a cereal grass) and maize this year, but because of desert locusts and untimely rains I only got 400 kg of maize and expect only 200 kg of teff.

“This is not even enough to feed my family,” he said.

The locust plague is far more serious than the FAO earlier projected and has been made worse by unseasonably heavy rainfall and floods across East Africa that have killed hundreds of people in the past several months.

Experts say climate shocks are largely responsible for rapidly changing weather patterns in the region.

(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini and Dawit Endeshaw; Editing by Maggie Fick and Giles Elgood)

Freedom Tower Infested By Rats

The new beacon of freedom on the New York City skyline is infested with rats.

Staff members with Conde Nast publishing…who produce upscale magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair…say the rat infestation has reached the point that it’s almost impossible for to continue working in the building.

“A bunch ate through the ceiling of a sports editor’s office and crawled all over his desk and left poops on his keyboard,” said a staff member. “They ate through his rug to fit under his door.”

Staffers have been prohibited from bringing food into their offices.

The problem has been getting worse since November when the company began moving into 1 World Trade Center.

“The famed accessories closet, which was being put together with the designer wares from the old office, was taking shape when the rats got into it,” a source told Gawker. “There were droppings all over the floor, and some of the shoe boxes had been chewed into.”

Sources say that the rats began their assault through the ventilation system.

“The rats appear to have gotten in via the venting, which was being worked on even as staffers were moving in,” the source said. “Walls were being moved to accommodate last-minute design changes by Anna and Condé Nast, and it’s assumed this is how the rats got in.”