West Africa is on the verge of a major food crisis as the Ebola outbreak continues to plague the region, says United Nations Special Rapporteur Hilal Elver.
“While the countries hardest hit by the Ebola crisis struggle to contain the devastating virus, they now face a new challenge with experts predicting that over a million people in the region need food aid to allay shortages,” Ms. Elver said in a statement.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), predicted that at least 20% of the population in regions affected by Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia will face food insecurity or worse during the period of September 2014 to March 2015.
The outbreak, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives since it started 11 months ago, has had a significant effect on agriculture, the primary economic activity in West Africa. Two-thirds of the population depend on farming for survival.
In late October, Action Against Hunger USA said that the outbreak has created a shortage of manpower for food production and has increased the cost of food for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Assessments conducted in the three countries revealed that nearly 40% of farmers left their crops.
On Monday, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced that the German government has given them 24 million euros (USD $30 million) to support food assistance for victims of the epidemic. The money is being used to buy food and fund an airlift operation to bring nutritious foods to patients in Ebola treatment units, recovering survivors and communities affected by Ebola transmission.
On Oct. 20, the People’s Republic of China contributed $6 million to provide emergency rations in Ebola countries, which would help the WFP afford a month's worth of food to feed people living in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The WFP has sent the food from the UN Humanitarian Regional Depot it runs in Las Palmas, Spain to Liberia and Sierra Leone and has already provided food assistance to 1.3 million people in addition to the health response in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.