WFP has launched a regional emergency operation which will provide food assistance to around 1.3 million people in the three most affected countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Food is being distributed to people under medical quarantine, people under treatment, and their relatives. We are working alongside national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.
The objective is to prevent a health crisis from becoming a food crisis. In the three countries, the food chain is threatened at many levels, starting with production. Farmers are leaving behind their crops and livestock as they seek areas they perceive as safer from exposure to the virus. Travel restrictions and displacements are likely to affect food prices.
The bans on eating traditional protein sources, such as bush meat, may also have implications for the food security and nutrition of people in these communities. Some of the animals that people normally hunt for food, such as bats and apes, are known to be potential carriers of the Ebola virus.
On the top of that, hundreds of households have already lost one or more of their members. The majority of Ebola victims fall within the 15-45 year bracket and are therefore frequently the main income providers. The reduction of household income coupled with the already observed food price rise will further deteriorate the food security situation.
The spread of ebola
The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa began with an outbreak in Guinea in December 2013. It has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. It is the most severe outbreak since the discovery of the virus in 1976. Click to enlarge map.
Here's what WFP is doing in the three most affected countries:
Guinea: WFP began food distributions because of Ebola four months ago and has reached around 40,000 people (in Biffa, Fria, Télémélé, N’Zerekore, Macenta and Guekedo). Preparations are being made to gradually increase distributions to 464,000 people over a period of three months.
Sierra Leone: WFP is reaching Ebola patients in health centres and affected households in the epicentres of Kenema and Kailahun as well as houses that are under quarantine in 12 out of 13 districts in Sierra Leone. Up to 400,000 people in Sierra Leone are targeted under the regional response for the next 3 months.
Liberia: Between 1 July and the end of August, WFP delivered food to some 43,700 people at Ebola case management centres and in quarantined communities. The distributions have covered nine of Liberia’s 15 counties, including the West Point slum community in the capital Monrovia and the Ebola epicentre of Foya District in Liberia’s northern Lofa County.
WFP manages the UN Humanitarian Response Depots (UNHRD), which store emergency supplies that can be quickly transported within 24-48 hours. UNHRD has recently sent more than US$220, 000 worth of protective gear like gloves, masks and emergency health kits for the World Health Organisation (WHO), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and WFP from its depots in Ghana and Dubai.
WFP also manages the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), which transports humanitarian workers and light cargo to emergencies around the world. UNHAS is currently operating in West Africa and has flown more than 100 passengers from organisations like WHO, UNICEF, MSF and WFP into and out of the Ebola affected areas since 16 August.