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Locust swarms: UN says 13 million people in East Africa could face food crisis | World News



The United Nations has warned if the locust swarms spreading across East Africa are not stopped now it could affect millions of people and cost more than $1bn (£766.5m).

In a stark warning to the world’s governments, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said it will be vastly more cost effective to raise the $76m (£59m) needed to stop the swarms now instead of dealing with the consequences if it turns into a plague.

It said up to 13 million people’s food security could be further threatened if the pests are not tackled imminently.

Locusts in Kenya
Locusts in Kenya

The desert locust swarms were first spotted in December in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and reached Uganda on Sunday, prompting its government to deploy military forces to help with pesticide spraying.

It is the worst locust invasion Kenya has seen in 70 years and the worst in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years, with crops destroyed as the insects exploit wet conditions after unusually heavy rains.

Aerial spraying is considered the only effective control.

Uganda deployed soldiers to spray pesticides on swarms of desert locusts after they arrived on Sunday
Uganda deployed soldiers to spray pesticides on swarms of desert locusts after they arrived on Sunday
The infestation is posing an unprecedented threat to food security. according to  the authorities.
The infestation is posing an unprecedented threat to food security, according to authorities.

The desert locust is considered the world’s most dangerous migratory pest, with a swarm of one square kilometre (0.38sq mile) able to consume the equivalent of crops that could feed 35,000 people for a year.

The WFP’s executive director, David Beasley, said: “The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) needs US$76m to help stop the locusts.

“Do nothing now and WFP will need up to 15 times that amount – more than $1bn – to assist people devastated by losing crops and livelihoods.

“Preventing a catastrophe in East Africa is a far better investment than responding to its consequences and impact on the lives of millions across the region.”

Kenya is experiencing is worst locust infestation in more than 70 years
Kenya is experiencing its worst locust infestation in more than 70 years

The FAO has so far raised $22m (£16.8m) out of the $76m it has appealed for to launch a large scale response to the locust infestation.

Desert locust swarms are now multiplying across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia and more have already been observed in Eritrea, Djibouti and northeastern Uganda, the regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group warned on Friday.

“Looking forward, given favourable forecast weather conditions, swarms are expected to increase in areas already affected, as well as spread to neighbouring areas,” the update said.

“There is also a high risk that locusts will spread to South Sudan.”

Locusts in Kenya
Locusts in Kenya

Several million people in South Sudan are already facing hunger as the country struggles to emerge from a civil war.

The FAO also expects locusts to breed and spread in coming months as the March-April start of the long rains is forecast to encourage the locusts to breed again and spread even further.

This is the second warning this week, after the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said a region where 13 million people already face severe food insecurity cannot afford another jolt.

The UN warned: “We simply cannot afford another major shock.”

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Coronavirus deaths: One million people have now died globally | World News



More than a million people around the world have now died in the coronavirus pandemic.

The data from Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak, also shows more than 33 million COVID-19 cases have been reported.

It comes after a significant rise in infections has triggered local lockdowns in countries such as France, Spain and the UK.

Live updates on coronavirus from UK and around world

Coronavirus cases have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

On 22 September, the death toll in the United States, which has suffered more fatalities than any other country, passed 200,000.

Bereaved share stories of COVID deaths as disease reaches one million dead

Bereaved share COVID stories as disease reaches one million dead

India has the fastest infection rate in the world and is close to becoming the country with the highest number of cases.

The nation of 1.3 billion people currently has around 5.9 million infections – second only to the US, which has recorded more than seven million.

However, India’s fatality rate is one of the lowest in the world, with experts saying it may be down to reasons such as its younger population.

How the virus spread

Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival, meanwhile, has been postponed for the first time in a century as Brazil continues to battle the second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the world.

Israel, which in September became the first country to re-enter a strict national lockdown, has voted to further tighten measures after restrictions failed to bring down the infection rate.

In the UK, around 17 million people – more than a quarter of the population – are living under tougher coronavirus restrictions after new measures on socialising came into force in large parts of the country.

In Africa, the World Health Organisation has said the outbreak may have passed its peak, but warned governments against complacency to avoid a second wave.

The WHO’s emergencies chief has said the number of global coronavirus deaths could reach two million before a vaccine is found and widely used, and without concerted action to curb the pandemic.

“It’s certainly unimaginable,”said Dr Mike Ryan.

“But it’s not impossible, because if we look at losing a million people in nine months and then we just look at the realities of getting a vaccine out there in the next nine months, it’s a big task for everyone involved.”

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Alexander Lukashenko: Belarusian leader hit with sanctions by UK over ‘rigged’ election | World News



Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced sanctions against Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Others, including Mr Lukashenko’s son Viktor and members of his government, also face penalties – including frozen assets and travel bans.

The eastern European nation has been gripped by protests since the disputed election held on 9 August.

Belarus arrest

Great-grandmother, 73, arrested at Belarus protest

Despite many – including the UK – claiming that the results were rigged, Mr Lukashenko was sworn in as president in a secret ceremony last week.

Mr Raab said on Tuesday: “Today the UK and Canada have sent a clear message by imposing sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s violent and fraudulent regime.

“We don’t accept the results of this rigged election.

“We will hold those responsible for the thuggery deployed against the Belarusian people to account and we will stand up for our values of democracy and human rights.”

The full list of those hit by the sanctions is:

  • Alexander Lukashenko, the president
  • Viktor Lukashenko, his son and national security adviser
  • Igor Petrovich Sergeenko, the president’s chief of staff
  • Yuri Karayev, the minister of internal affairs
  • Alexander Barsukov, the chief of public security police
  • Yuri Nazarenko, commander of internal troops
  • Khazalbek Atabekov, deputy commander of internal troops
  • Dmitry Balaba, commander of the special purpose police unit of Minsk

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Salty lakes the size of Scotland could be buried beneath Martian pole | Science & Tech News



New evidence has been revealed of an enormous salty lake of liquid water buried beneath the ice of the Martian south pole.

New radar data from a European Space Agency spacecraft suggests a large body of liquid water, as well as three smaller lakes, are spread out over 75,000 square kilometres – an area roughly the size of Scotland.

There is potential that the liquid water – if that is what it is – could harbour life. However, its extreme salinity could also make it uninhabitable.

Billions of years ago there was an abundance of water on Mars
Liquid water can’t exist on the surface of the planet

Scientists who conducted the study used techniques that have been used on Earth to identify subterranean lakes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

It was led by researchers from Roma Tre University in Italy, who previously co-authored a paper based on initial observations suggesting a lake was present in 2018.

Liquid water cannot exist on the surface of Mars due to the lack of any substantial atmosphere to raise the surface pressure.

However, there is evidence of flowing water from when the planet had an atmosphere billions of year ago.

Scientists have suspected that water could still exist trapped beneath the surface and this has been hotly debated ever since the initial discovery back in 2018.

At the time, scientists said their ground-penetrating radar found a lake about a mile beneath the southern ice cap.

They proposed that salts in the lake had kept it from freezing, despite the -68C (-90F) temperature.

Mars is also known as the red planet
Canals on the Martian surface show where water once ran

Lakes on Earth with a salinity about five times that of seawater can still support life, but there are limitations on how salty water can be for life to thrive.

There are briny sub-glacial pools in Antarctica where water has a salt content 20 times that of seawater, but there isn’t much life there.

Some scientists dispute that the reflective material the researchers found was liquid water and think it is more likely a kind of slush or sludge.

One potential investigation that could shed more light is the Chinese mission Tianwen-1, which means “quest for heavenly truth”, that launched in July.

Tianwen-1 will take seven months to reach Mars and plans to search for underground water and evidence of possible ancient life forms.

The tandem spacecraft – with both an orbiter and a rover – is expected to enter the planet’s orbit in February and is aiming for a landing site on Utopia Planitia.

NASA detected possible signs of ice at the site, according to an article in Nature Astronomy by chief engineer Wan Weixing, who died in May from cancer.

The latest Martian study is also published in the Nature Astronomy journal.

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