Ebola spurs food insecurity fears in African countries

Areas most affected by the outbreak are among the most productive in Sierra Leone and Liberia

By Vani Manocha
Published: Wednesday 03 September 2014


The killer Ebola that has already claimed more than 2,000 lives in West Africa will soon be depriving several of food in the region. “Disruptions in food trade and marketing in the three West African countries most affected by Ebola have made food increasingly expensive and hard to come by, while labour shortages are putting the upcoming harvest season at serious risk,” warned Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Tuesday.

According to the international food agency, quarantine zones in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have curtailed the movement and marketing of food, leading to panic buying and price hikes. 

With the harvest season for two key crops—rice and maize—just weeks away, labour shortages and migration, triggered by Ebola, has put food security of millions in the region in jeopardy. The areas most affected by the outbreak are among the most productive in Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

Apart from main crops, the production of cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber is also expected to be severely hit, says FAO. "With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The situation will have long-lasting impacts on farmers' livelihoods and rural economies," says Bukar Tijani, FAO Regional Representative for Africa.  

Government mistrust spurring epidemic in Liberia
According to a report published in IRIN, civil society groups say, “Decades of corruption, deep-rooted mistrust of government and weak public services in Liberia have hastened the spread of the Ebola virus, and much more needs to be done to bridge a communication gap between government and citizens.” 

“Capacity and accountability haven’t been built within systems; not just healthcare systems, but financial management, education, and all the systems that allow the state to deal with crises,” says Blair Glencorse, executive director of non-profit Accountability Lab, in the IRIN report. “So when you have an emergency like this, it quickly indicates that the government doesn’t have the trust of its people, it doesn’t have the capacity and it doesn’t have the tools it needs to handle such an outbreak.”

Liberia, according to World Health organization, is the worst affected country with 1,082 cases and 624 deaths till now. 


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