Thursday, 29 January 2009
Worm Invasion- Latest News
GBARNGA, 26 January 2009 (IRIN) - Army worms have now struck 65 towns across Liberia, leaving in their wake wells contaminated by faeces, fields empty of crops and markets devoid of food.
The worms, which invaded Bong country in central Liberia on 15 January, have spread to Gbarpolu County in the northwest and to Lofa County, which borders Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Crops that remain in the affected Liberian towns - including bananas, plantains, taros and peppers - are not being harvested. "Farmers are now scattered around the area and are no longer harvesting their crops so.there is a shortage of food in the markets," said farmer Massaboi Kollie, who runs a 10-acre taro and pepper farm in the town of Belefanai, which was infested on 23 January.
This leaves market vendors in Bong's capital Gbarnga with nothing to sell. "We are no longer making business. The worms have taken over all the towns where we normally buy bananas, plantains and peppers," said vendor Mamie Morris.
Up to 20,000 people have fled their villages in Bong, Lofa and Gbarpolu counties, according to Liberia's Ministry of Agriculture.
"Life is becoming unbearable for us," Anthony Menkor, 55, told IRIN from Gbarnga, where he fled from Zota District with his 13-member family. "We are relying on the limited crops that are left, and depending on other food being transported in from other regions."
Rising food prices
In Gbarnga the cost of some foods has more than doubled: a large bunch of bananas now cost US$10 up from $4; 1 kg taros that used to cost 38 cents now costs $2.25, according to fruit-seller Annie Sumo.
As much as 75 percent of Zota District has been invaded by the worms, said the district's agricultural commissioner, Joseph Urey.
"There is food shortage right now in my district and we are sending emergency calls for aid agencies to bring water and food to the affected people, who have been displaced from their towns," Urey said.
Fighting the worms
Officials with the ministries of agriculture, health and internal affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency have been spraying affected areas with insecticide, forcing most of the worms into the forest, according to Joseph Queliboh Subah, who manages the government effort to contain the insects.
But this has sparked fear that the worms might cross the borders to Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Subah said only aerial spraying can stem the spread, as insects climb trees to fertilise their eggs."Liberia cannot contain the invasion so the international community has to come in to help with more advanced spraying,"
He said NGOs have not yet responded to appeals for assistance.
Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were expected to arrive in the capital Monrovia on 26 January to assess the extent of the damage and decide how to fight the worms, according to FAO's Liberia emergency coordinator Tim Vaesen.
Area 51-Fact or Fiction?
Area 51 is a military base, and a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base. It is located in the southern portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83 miles (133 km) north-northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of Groom Lake, is a large secretive military airfield. The base's primary purpose is to support development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems.
The base lies within the United States Air Force's vast Nevada Test and Training Range. Although the facilities at the range are managed by the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, the Groom facility appears to be run as an adjunct of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, around 186 miles (300 km) southwest of Groom, and as such the base is known as Air Force Flight Test Center (Detachment 3).
Though the name Area 51 is used in official CIA documentation, other names used for the facility include Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Home Base, Watertown Strip, Groom Lake, and most recently Homey Airport. The area is part of the Nellis Military Operations Area, and the restricted airspace around the field is referred to as (R-4808N), known by the military pilots in the area as "The Box" or "the Container".
The intense secrecy surrounding the base, the very existence of which the U.S. government barely acknowledges, has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore.