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Ebola health crisis may become food crisis says WFP

Ebola health crisis may become food crisis says WFP

Aug 28, 2014

According to an article by Caelainn Hogan in the Washington Post on 27 August 2014, there are major international concerns that the Ebola virus has already begun to affect food stocks and farmers in quarantined areas, and the situation is likely to get worse.

Earlier this month Fabienne Pompey, spokesperson for the World Food Program (WFP) in West Africa, said: “So far, Ebola is a health crisis, but it can shortly become a food security crisis.  Because of these isolated areas, people are not free to go in and out. Some are not able to go to their fields, some have moved to other areas and are away from home, kind of internally displaced, and also the economy and trade is disrupted. So people will have difficulties to get their daily meals.”

The UN agency has raised its food assistance in an attempt to reach 1 million people in restricted areas, including rations for households and cooked meals for patients in isolation. Sierra Leone and Liberia have enforced a state of emergency, with travel in and out of the most affected areas restricted and Liberia has closed all borders except for some vital entry points.

Jean-Alexandre Scaglia, representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Liberia, said: “In quarantined areas, food shortages, not Ebola, are the main concern. People are saying: ‘We’re not afraid of dying from Ebola, we’re starving.’ ”

Clashes erupted on 20 August in West Point, a coastal shantytown of 70,000 people in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, as the government enforced a quarantine. West Africa’s five-month-old fight against the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record has so far not seen the results hopes for, and some 1 300 people have already died.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the virus continues to spread and the total number of cases reported in the affected nations – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone – is already higher than in all other Ebola outbreaks combined since 1976, when the disease was first identified.

Scaglia said intervention measures like quarantines ultimately fail if people are not assured access to food and a food crises can develop extremely quickly. “You don’t realise until one morning you wake up, you go to the shop, and no one has anything to sell you.”
In the Ebola-hit district of Kailahun in Sierra Leone, 78 percent of the population mainly buys its food from the local markets, but with the epidemic, these markets have shut down.

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