Smith, Bass introduce bipartisan bill to help African nations facing locust infestation, starvation
With the U.S. and all nations aggressively combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of African countries face the added threat of starvation wrought by a devastating locust plague, leading Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) to author the bipartisan East Africa Locust Eradication Act to help mitigate the crisis.
Smith, the former chairman and current ranking Republican of the congressional panel that oversees U.S. policy on Africa and global health issues, was joined by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the current chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, as the lead co-sponsor of the legislation, HR 7276. The bill sets up an interagency task force to develop a strategy and issue a report, and then to convene at least semi-annually to ensure the strategy is being implemented properly.
“East Africa is seeing some of the most severe infestations of locusts, coming at a time when many governments’ resources are already stretched thin due to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Smith, who has led several human rights and humanitarian aid trips to the region. “Nations which were already under threat of food insecurity now face a real danger of starvation. There are now up to 26 million people who are at risk of acute food shortages and widespread hunger, according to USAID. My bill would convene our State Department, USAID, Defense Department, Agriculture Department and the National Security Council to formulate and implement a plan to address this and future locust crises.”
Last month, Smith and Bass introduced a House resolution, H.Res. 962, urging the President to allocate air assets to support locust eradication and to direct the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to immediately mobilize personnel from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to determine further types of assistance the United States could provide in East Africa.
The locust plague threatens millions of people in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, and other countries.
Smith also sent a letter to the Administration about the crisis in March. Click here to read the letter. To date, USAID has contributed nearly $20 million in disaster assistance to combat the locusts.