UN: UN expert says West Africa on brink of food crisis due to Ebola

New York, US (PANA) - As Ebola continues to ravage West Africa, leaving more than 4,000 people dead, the region is now on the brink of a major food crisis, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Ms. Hilal Elver, warned on Tuesday.

"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.

She noted that agriculture, the main economic activity in West Africa with two-thirds of the population dependent on farming, had taken a severe toll since the Ebola outbreak hit earlier this year.

She said the closure of border and sea crossings, a reduction in regional trade, along with a decline in foreign investment had left regional countries in a precarious food situation and farmers in disarray.

"Farmers in West Africa have been severely affected by this crisis, with fear and panic resulting in many having abandoned their farms. This in turn has led to a disruption in food production and a soaring rise in food prices," Ms. Elver noted.

The UN expert said staple crops such as rice and maize would reportedly be scaled back due to shortages in farm labour with potential "catastrophic" effect on food security.

Ms. Elver also expressed her deep concern at reports suggesting that, in some cases, communities were facing food shortages due to poor road accessibility, while others had been threatening to evade quarantine because of lack of food supplies.

"In situations where Governments have imposed quarantine on communities or requested for self-quarantine, access to food should be strictly ensured."

The Special Rapporteur called on the international community to do everything in its power to ensure that the already existing food shortages in these countries were mitigated, adding that immediate measures must be taken to ensure food security to stricken communities.

Ms. Elver, a Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014.
-0- PANA AA/MA 11Nov2014

11 november 2014 21:12:29

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