Global Risks

4 global news stories that have been overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis

Samburu men attempt to fend-off a swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Lemasulani village, Samburu County, Kenya January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2LHE9A64LU

The swarm of locusts is the worst invasion in over 15 years. Image: REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

Rosamond Hutt
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  • Locust swarms are causing an “unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods” across East Africa, the UN has warned.
  • Oil saw its biggest drop in decades as a price war broke out between Russia and Saudi Arabia, adding to fears for the global economy.
  • The European Union could be facing another refugee crisis after Turkey eased border controls.
  • Earth just had its second-warmest February since climate records began in 1880.

Coronavirus is dominating the news cycle and our conversations, but for months governments have been racing to control another type of outbreak.

Hundreds of billions of locusts are tearing through East Africa, destroying crops and livelihoods in a region already experiencing acute food insecurity.

Have you read?

With important stories like this one receiving a smaller share of media coverage than they might usually expect, here’s a look at a few headlines that may have slipped down your news feed in recent weeks.

1. Locust outbreak


Desert locust swarms are causing an “unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods” across eastern Africa, United Nations agencies have warned.

In Kenya, which is suffering its worst locust infestation for 70 years, one swarm occupied an area of sky more than three times the size of New York City.

Swarms have also been forming in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and India.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the number of locusts in East Africa could increase 500 times by June, and has appealed for $138 million to fund urgent efforts to tackle the crisis. By the end of February it had received only $52 million.

2. Oil price crash

Oil price decline
On 9 March oil prices tumbled as much as 30%. Image: Markets Insider

Demand for oil was already down as economic activity declined with China and other countries in lockdown.

But an oil price war between two of the world’s biggest oil producers, Russia and Saudi Arabia, has added to fears over the health of the global economy.

On 9 March, global stock markets, spooked by the oil price collapse and continued coronavirus unrest, saw their sharpest falls since the 2008 financial crisis.

3. Europe’s new refugee crisis

Migrants walk towards the Turkey's Pazarkule border crossing with Greece's Kastanies, near Edirne, Turkey March 1, 2020.
Migrants trying to reach the EU walk towards Turkey’s border with Greece. Image: Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir

Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been trying to get into Greece by land and sea since Turkey eased its border controls on 28 February.

Turkey, which had agreed with the EU in 2016 to halt the flow of asylum seekers from Syria and other countries in return for aid, announced that it would no longer stop them trying to mare their way to Greece, sparking fears over another European migration crisis.

Greece closed its border and announced it was suspending asylum applications for a month, a move the EU urged it to reconsider. Witnesses reported teargas and water cannons being used to push back people trying to cross the border.

The EU has said it will pay some migrants on overcrowded Greek islands to return voluntarily to their home countries.

4. Second-warmest February on record

Land and Ocean temperature departure from average Feb 2020, using 1981 - 2010 as base period.
February 2020 was the planet’s second-warmest February on record. Image: NOAA

Earth just had its second-warmest February since climate records began in 1880, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The northern hemisphere experienced an unseasonably warm winter with many parts of Europe recording exceptionally high temperatures for that time of year. Norway hit 19°C in January – more than 25°C above the monthly average.

Europe and Asia recorded their warmest winters ever during December, January and February, according to NASA and NOAA. This comes after NASA and NOAA scientists declared 2019 the second-warmest year on record.

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Global RisksHealth and Healthcare SystemsIndustries in DepthResilience, Peace and SecurityFood and Water
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