wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09MONROVIA81
2009-01-23 15:44:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Monrovia
Cable title:  

LIBERIA: DISASTER ADVISORY ON MOTH AND CATERPILLAR

Tags:   EAID  PREF  WFP  IZ  LI  PHUM 
pdf how-to read a cable
O 231544Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY MONROVIA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0725
AMEMBASSY DAKAR IMMEDIATE 
ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
INFO NSC WASHDC
CDC ATLANTA GA
USEU BRUSSELS
AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA 
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 
USMISSION UN ROME
USMISSION GENEVA 
SECDEF WASHDC//SOLIC/PKHA//
SECDEF WASHDC//USDP/J3//
JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J3/J4/J5//
HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE//J3/J5//
						UNCLAS MONROVIA 000081 


DAKAR FOR OFDA/WARO DAVIS
ACCRA FOR USAID/WARP
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
CONAKRY FOR POL AND USAID
FREETOWN FOR POL AND USAID
NAIROBI FOR OFDA/EARO
EUCOM FOR POLA/J3/J4/J5
BRUSSELS FOR USAID PLERNER
USUN FOR TMALY

DEPARTMENT FOR PRM, AF/W, IO
NSC FOR TSHORTLEY
USAID FOR USAID/A, AFR/AA, AFR/WA, AFR/SD, MAHARVEY
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA GGOTTLIEB, CPRATT, CPRATT, ACONVERY, AFERRARA,
MBRENNAN, MLUTZ
USAID FOR DCHA/AA, DCHA/FFP, DCHA/OTI, DCHA/CMM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF WFP IZ LI PHUM
SUBJECT: LIBERIA: DISASTER ADVISORY ON MOTH AND CATERPILLAR
INFESTATION IN BONG AND LOFA COUNTIES



1. SUMMARY: This is a DISASTER ALERT cable to report widespread
infestation of crops by caterpillar moths (presumed by some to be
'army worms') in central and northern Liberia. The Liberian
Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) announced January 20 a state of
emergency in 50 villages of central Liberia as a result of the
infestation. The caterpillars have destroyed crops, consumed
vegetation and polluted water sources. MOA officials say the
situation has worsened and the caterpillars are now moving towards
western Liberia. The GOL has requested international assistance to
fight the infestation. The United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) is assisting the MOA with genus and species
analysis of the caterpillars in order to determine an appropriate
mitigation response. Post will issue a DISASTER DECLARATION by
septel requesting USAID/OFDA assistance. END SUMMARY.



2. On or about January 19, Bong County authorities reported that
caterpillars had infested and deposited larvae over crops, trees,
shrubs and some households, severely affecting at least five
districts in central and northern Liberia. The MOA, in
collaboration with the UN FAO, dispatched a team of experts January
21 to hand spray affected areas in an effort to contain the
infestation. As the GOL and FAO struggle to fight the infestation
and contain the spread, the MOA was trying to have a specimen
examined in Ghana to determine the nature of the pests. No results
yet have been reported.



3. Since the reported infestation, GOL authorities have held a
series of daily emergency meetings, attended by UN agencies (FAO,
UNICEF, UNMIL, UNDP, WHO, etc.), bilateral donors, and NGOs to
provide updates on the response. Bong County Health workers from
the Ministry of Health say the pests have destroyed food and cash
crops, entered houses and contaminated water sources. In a radio
interview yesterday, Bong County Supervisor reported that some
50,000 persons may be affected in three districts. MOH workers
suggested that "thousands of people in the affected areas have fled
their villages to seek refuge in the nearby towns," but UN
representatives monitoring the area could not confirm this
assertion. The location of the infestation in Bong County is
significant, because Bong is in the heart of Liberia's
food-producing area, where much of the country's cassava, eddoes,
plantains, bananas and potatoes are grown.



4. Efforts to identify the genus and species of the pest have not
yet resulted in a definitive answer. An MOA entomologist said the
caterpillars are wormlike and often brightly colored, hairy or spiny
larva, approximately 1.5 inches long. The caterpillars multiply
quickly, producing 500-1000 eggs per day and maturing in 2-3 days.



5. Attempts to control with available pesticides, burn or
physically remove the pests have shown limited results. The
caterpillars are reportedly too numerous, too ravenous, and many are
holding up in tree foliage above 10 meters, suggesting that ground
control efforts will have marginal results. Neighboring Guinea has
also reported infestations, raising concern over the possibility of
a wider infestation with major long-term effects on water and food
supplies and agricultural livelihoods.



6. The U.S. Mission MDRO and agricultural/economic team of USAID
are in constant touch with GOL officials and other donors to monitor
developments and track responses. Thus far, international
assistance has been limited to 50 handpumps and parts from UNICEF to
repair and maintain deep groundwater supplies where possible. The
FAO is assisting the MOA with efforts to identify the pest and
devise spraying and protective measures. The UN has provided
reconnaissance visits to the areas by NGOs and GOL officials from
various ministries, but has not otherwise directly assisted with
ground transport or well repair efforts.



7. Minister of Agriculture Christopher Toe declared on January 20 a
"national disaster" in 19 towns and villages and requested
international assistance. The MOA expanded the disaster declaration
to over 50 villages on January 23. The Minister of Agriculture was
joined by other ministers (Health, Interior) in this public appeal
for support from donor partners and relief agencies to assist in
confronting the challenges of the infestation.



8. A USG team plans to visit several affected sites over the next
few days to make a first-hand assessment. Based on that assessment,
Post will likely declare a disaster and request specific USAID/OFDA
emergency assistance. Post has been in continued contact with
OFDA's regional office in Dakar. The USG team will gather further
information during the visit to the affected sites, and in
consultation with the GOL and NGO partners who have an active
presence in the Bong/Lofa communities, will develop an emergency
relief response plan. Our request for OFDA assistance is likely to
focus on 1) water treatment and sanitation, and 2) protective
equipment for pest control activities in affected communities. Food
security is also a concern over the long run.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD