IFRC health workers start the day praying with Ebola patients in the outside area in front of their tents (October 2014)
As we step into the 9th month of the most serious Ebola outbreak in history that first started at Guinea in March 2014, the epidemic has subsequently spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal with one imported case from Liberia and associated locally acquired cases in healthcare workers in USA. The total number of reported cases has reached over ten thousand people and resulted in nearly 5,000 deaths, most of them coming from severely affected Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The grave situation is believed to worsen in the coming months – it is estimated that there will be as many as 1.4 million cases by the end of January 2015 (if corrections for underreporting are made) unless robust interventions take place.
On top of hitting the already weak healthcare system in West Africa, Ebola is also hitting the region’s food security. Closed markets and disruptions in farming, trade, transportation and people’s movements, have also led to food shortages in many already vulnerable communities across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, particularly those in border areas.
In places where food is still available, prices are going up. In Liberia’s Lofa County for example, the country’s former epicenter of the outbreak, food and commodity prices rose between 30 and 75 percent between April and September, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Certain types of fish are now five times more expensive than before the outbreak began.
“We have to be aware of the situation and have to react quickly so not to face, in addition to this health problem, a major food security crisis,” said Vincent Martin, head of FAO’s West Africa resilience hub.
Medical Team Alliance, a fellow member of Integral Alliance, is currently responding to the outbreak in Liberia. They reported that the country economy and food security are already being threatened and essential health services have collapsed in some areas of Liberia. [IRIN, FEWS, CDC]
Please remember West Africa in your prayers:
- For people suffering from Ebola and for families that have been torn apart by this epidemic.
- For protection and strength to be given to health workers as they care for Ebola patients.
- Better communication, collaboration and trust among the international communities as they fight the virus together and seek to solve the food security issue.
* Integral Alliance (IA), a global alliance comprising of 19 Christian relief and development agencies, is now responding to the outbreak in West Africa. CEDAR is one of the member agencies of Integral Alliance.