Have humans incited the wrath of God? Now, as well as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, a severe plague of locusts has descended over the unique island of Madagascar.
Quote from the bible, Exodus 10. 'The Lord said to Moses: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields'.
Whether we believe the bible word-for-word or not, the collection of stories forms part of our history. Presumably, the change from grasshopper to locust was a natural occurrence even then, and one feared by mankind. It must have been terrifying to have all available food wiped out by an unstoppable swarm.
The island of Madagascar is heavily exposed to tropical cyclones which bring torrential rains and destructive floods. A recent cyclone provided optimum conditions which allowed another generation of locusts to breed. About half the country is infested by hoppers and flying swarms made up of billions of plant-devouring insects.
Madagascar is the world's fourth biggest island. Because of its isolation off the east coast of Africa, most of its mammals, half its birds, and most of its plants exist nowhere else on earth. Click here to see the unique mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, trees including Baobabs and the habitats. The World Bank has estimated that 70% of the population lives on less than $1 per day. Poverty and the competition for agricultural land have put pressure on the island's dwindling forests, home to much of Madagascar's unique wildlife and key to its emerging tourist industry.
Now, locusts will devour rice crops and decimate livestock. 22m people could be threatened by a significant worsening of hunger in a country that already had extremely high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization estimated the need for $22m to avert starvation for 60% of the population.
I can't help wondering why groups already at risk are the ones most likely to suffer hardship. Divine providence or Mother Nature's forces? No matter which, the weak are targeted.