Billions of locusts — everywhere the eye can see, eating most everything in sight.
That’s the harsh reality affecting roughly half the island nation of Madagascar, infested by swarms of the bugs flying in sometimes mile-long packs. Run for 30 to 45 minutes, and you still might not be able to shake them.
“It’s like you are in a movie, it’s incredible,” said Alexandre Huynh of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, from the country’s capital of Antananarivo. “You don’t see anything except locusts. You turn around, there are locusts everywhere.”
Locusts’ targets aren’t people, but they do ravenously devour what people eat — directly in the form of crops, and indirectly in the form of pastureland that livestock and other animals graze on.
Last Look: A Biblical Plague Returns
Without concerted and effective action, experts say the crisis could very easily prove deadly in a nation such as Madagascar, where the U.N. estimates more than two-thirds of residents lived in poverty before this crisis.
Doing nothing would mean the locust plague could spread across two-thirds of the island, which sits in the Indian Ocean off Africa’s southeastern coast. Even after a lull in winter, they’d wake up in the spring in greater numbers and, without action, remain a devastating presence for a full decade, Huynh said.
This year’s infestation is the worst since the 1950s.