Viewing cable 09MONROVIA81
Title: LIBERIA: DISASTER ADVISORY ON MOTH AND CATERPILLAR

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09MONROVIA812009-01-23 15:44:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Monrovia
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