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Desert Locust situation update - 24 November 2020

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Cyclone Gati brings heavy rains to northern Somalia

On 17-21 November, Cyclone Gati formed in the Indian Ocean and made landfall on the 22nd near Xaafuun and the northern tip of northeast Somalia. It is the strongest storm on record in Somalia. Twice the annual average of rainfall was expected to fall in two days. Bosaso reported 128 mm in 24 hours and extensive damage was reported in Bari region. In the past two days, Gati has moved in a westerly direction along the coast of northern Somalia towards Berbera and weakened as it headed into the Gulf of Aden.

Gati could impact current Desert Locust infestations in several ways. Heavy rains are likely to have fallen on the Somali plateau between Hargeisa and Garowe, which is north of current breeding in the Ogaden of eastern Somali region in Ethiopia and adjacent areas of central Somalia. Nevertheless, the rains would allow immature swarms still present near Hargeisa and Jijiga, Ethiopia to rapidly complete their maturation and lay eggs. On the other hand, winds associated with the cyclone may have allowed these swarms to move southeast to the Ogaden where they would mature and lay eggs in current breeding areas.

In either case, widespread breeding currently underway in eastern Ethiopia, central Somalia and perhaps southern Somalia, coupled with a potential expansion to northern Somalia, is expected to cause numerous immature swarms to start forming in early December and continue until the end of the year. Many of these swarms will migrate to southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia, reaching northern Kenya by mid-December and continue thereafter. The potential scale of this migration could be substantial.

Intensive survey and control operations should be increased in Ethiopia and Somalia while heightened vigilance and preparedness are called for in Kenya.