News / Africa

UN: Food Shortages a Grave Concern in Ebola-hit Nations

  • Medical personnel, wearing protective gear, take part in a drill with a dummy to demonstrate the procedures of transporting an Ebola victim, in Hong Kong, Sept. 2, 2014.
  • Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu gestures during a media briefing on updates regarding the ongoing national Ebola disease outbreak, at the second general meeting with state commissioners of health, in Abuja, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • Nigerian navy and military medical directors attend the second general meeting with Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu in Abuja, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • Nigerian state commissioners of health attend the second general meeting with Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu in Abuja, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • Somieari Isaac-Harry Jr, permanent secretary of Nigeria's Health Ministry in River State, addresses journalists during a break in the media briefing on updates regarding the ongoing national Ebola disease outbreak, at the Health Minister's office in Abuja
  • A man washes his hands at a tap outside the Green Pharmacy at Area 8 in Abuja, Sept. 1, 2014.
  • Lagos state Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, left, speaks as commissioner for special duty, Wale Ahmed looks on during a presentation of medical protective kits for Ebola treatment centers.Lagos, Nigeria, Sept. 1, 2014.
Ebola in West Africa – Tuesday, Sept. 2
VOA News

A United Nations food agency warned on Tuesday of "grave food security concerns" in the west African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak as the deadly epidemic caused labor shortages and disrupted cross-border trade.

On Monday, a man escaped from an Ebola quarantine center in Monrovia and sent local people fleeing in fear as he walked through a local market in search of food.

The patient, who wore a tag showing he had tested positive for Ebola, held a stick and tried to get away from doctors in the center in the Paynesville neighborhood as they arrived on the scene attempting to catch him.

Restrictions on movement in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, such as border closings and suspended flights, have led to panic buying, food shortages and severe price hikes, especially in towns and cities, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said.

"Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbors," said Bukar Tijani, FAO Regional Representative for Africa.

Quarantine areas

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,500 people, and authorities have cordoned off entire towns in an effort to halt the virus' spread.

Even seaports are seeing less traffic, restricting food imports to the three hardest-hit countries, which all rely on grain from abroad to feed their people, according to FAO.

In Liberia, which has been hardest-hit by the outbreak with 694 deaths, the price of cassava in market stalls in the capital, Monrovia, went up 150 percent within the first weeks of August, the FAO said.

The U.N. has said 1.3 million people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will need help feeding themselves in coming months.

The World Food Program and FAO said they are planning to scale up life-saving operations by delivering 65,000 tons of food to these areas over the next three months.  

And the food situation looks likely to worsen, FAO said, because restrictions on movement are preventing laborers from accessing farms, and the harvest of rice and corn is set to begin in a few weeks.

In a cruel irony, U.N. officials noted on Tuesday that the main Ebola-affected countries have had adequate rain and were looking forward to a good harvest season.

Byrs said, the labor shortage is linked to Ebola as well. 

“The majority of Ebola victims are between the ages of 15 and 45, so hundreds of households will have lost one or more members of working age.  The reduction of household income coupled with rising food prices will also worsen food security," she said.

Urging opened borders

The World Health Organization is asking countries to lift border closures because they are preventing supplies from reaching people in desperate need.

However, Ivory Coast decided Monday night to keep its borders with Guinea and Liberia closed but said it would open a humanitarian corridor to allow supplies in.

World Food Program spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs told VOA that quarantine zones aimed at combating the spread of the virus are curtailing the movement and marketing of food. 

“We can see that travel restrictions and displacement have already affected prices because food producers are leaving their land to seek potentially safer areas," Byrs said.

"The Ebola crisis has led to buying panic also, and price hikes, and also the ban on the consumption of traditional protein sources, particularly bush meat may have implications for the food security and nutrition of the people in these communities," she added.

Congo outbreak

At current infection rates, the WHO fears it could take six to nine months and at least $490 million (373 million euros) to bring the outbreak under control, by which time over 20,000 people could be affected.

The food security alert was sounded as the WHO announced a separate Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo has now killed 31 people, although it added that the contagion was confined to an area around 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Kinshasa.

Congo Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said officials have recorded a total of 53 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola in the Djera district of Equateur province.

The outbreak is believed to be unrelated to the one in West Africa.

In Monrovia, the patient who escaped was from Elwa hospital, which last month was so crowded it had to turn away Ebola victims.

More than 1,550 people in four West African countries have died from the virus since the outbreak was first recorded in March.

Liberia has the highest infection rate with around 700 deaths out of 1,327 suspected and confirmed cases.

Patients not receiving food, water

One local woman said care for Ebola patients was so inadequate they were not even being fed.

“The patients are hungry, they are starving. No food, no water. The government needs to do more. Let Ellen [Johnson-Sirleaf] do more,” she said.

Health care workers eventually forced the man into a waiting ambulance and took him back to the facility.

One local man said he was the fifth patient to escape from the center.

"We told the Liberian government from the beginning, we do not want Ebola camp here. Today makes it the fifth Ebola patient coming outside vomiting and toiletting.”

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a U.S.-educated Nobel Peace Prize winner, has sought to quell criticism of the government's response to the outbreak by issuing orders threatening officials with dismissal for failing to report for work or for fleeing the country.

The outbreak, which was first recorded in March, originally began in Guinea, but has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and most recently Senegal.

Lisa Schlein contributed to this report from Geneva. Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs