UN: FAO, WFP warn on food insecurity in Ebola affected countries

New York, US (PANA) -  The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have said the Ebola epidemic in the affected West African countries could push the number of people facing food insecurity to more than one million by next spring.

"The disease's impact is potentially devastating in the three countries already coping with chronic food insecurity," according to a joint statement issued Thursday by the FAO and WFP.

The statement noted that already this month, half a million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

FAO and WFP said reports from their offices in the three most-affected countries show that "border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people's access to food, threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates".

The Rome-based UN agencies also warned that the number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015 unless access to food is drastically improved and measures are put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production.

Meanwhie, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has said government officials will begin a house-to-house search for sick people in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, which includes the capital Freetown.

In a statement, UNMEER said it was joining forces with the Sierra Leonean government and
other partners to launch "Operation Western Area Surge (WAS)" to ensure a focus on
crucial Ebola response activities such identifying and isolating potential patients, and increasing safe burials, ambulance dispatching, quarantine protocols, and social mobilisaation.

Mr. Anthony Banbury, head of UNMEER said: "Ebola response partners are racing to reverse
a spike in the rate of transmission of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) cases in the Western Area of
Sierra Leone, the new the epicenter of the outbreak.

"We need to do case management, case isolation, have the beds, contact identification, safe
burials, social mobilisation, and that is where all actors are focusing their energy.

"We are flying in labs to support the surge, flying in ambulances, flying the President of
Sierra Leone around to do social mobilisation. The top priority definitely has to be getting to
zero cases. That has to be everyone’s priority. Everything else depends on that," Mr. Banbury

The statement also disclosed that the Sierra Leonean government has periodically restricted
movements into and out of hot spots in order to slow the disease's spread. Freetown and its
surrounding areas currently account for more than half of the country's new infections.

It said the mission also reported that 87 Ethiopian health workers arrived in Liberia on Tuesday
to bolster the response to the Ebola outbreak, noting that the doctors and nurses will join an
African Union (AU) team, which already deployed more than 175 Nigerian medics to Liberia and
Sierra Leone.

It also added that the Netherlands is sending three teams of specialised laboratory technicians
to Liberia and Sierra Leone to help fight the outbreak.

In a related development, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in Mali, the last 13 people
being monitored for Ebola had been released from quarantine, and the country could be
declared free of the virus next month if no further cases are recorded.
-0- PANA AA/SEG 18Dec2014

18 december 2014 08:51:13

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