April 23, 2018

U.N. Says Ebola Crisis Could Become Food Insecurity Crisis

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other West African countries has made food expensive and hard to find. Labor shortages because of the outbreak are putting the harvest season at risk and trade is being disrupted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This has led to “panic buying” and food shortages.

Ebola VirusThe harvest season in West Africa begins in September. There were positive crop production outlooks at the start of the season. Unfortunately, the areas with high incidences of the Ebola virus are among the most agriculturally productive areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The organization has issued a special alert on this situation. Bukar Tijana, FAO Regional Representative for Africa said in a statement, “Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbors. With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The situation will have long-lasting impacts on farmers’ livelihoods and rural economies.”

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are all net cereal importers. The closing of border crossings are causing tighter food supplies and increases prices. In Monrovia’s Redlight Market, the price of cassava increased by 150% in the first weeks of August 2014. Many households in the areas affected by the Ebola outbreak already spend 80% of their incomes on food. These latest spikes put food completely out of reach, which could affect disease containment.

The U.N. World Food Programme has launched a regional emergency operation, delivering 65,000 tons of food to reach 1.3 million people. Another problem is that people who can’t afford to buy food will hunt. Transmission of the virus from food animals to humans has occurred, since the Ebola virus can sicken small rodents, shrews, and bats. A ban on bush meat has already deprived some people in the area of their income and food sources.

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