Rome (dpa) – The Ebola epidemic has seriously affected food supply chains in West Africa, leaving 500,000 people without enough to eat, UN agencies said Wednesday in Rome.
Without intervention, the number of people facing food insecurity could reach 1 million by March, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in Rome.
There was a slim ray of good news, however, by day’s end, as the World Health Organization (WHO) said Ebola’s spread now appears to be slowing down in two of the three West African countries that are at the centre of the outbreak.
There are indications that the outbreak was decreasing in Sierra Leone, said the UN health agency, which had assessed one week ago that the virus was spreading at an increasing or stable rate in the country.
In addition, WHO confirmed its previous assessment that the outbreak is declining in Liberia.
In Guinea, there was no clear trend as the intensity of the epidemic has been fluctuating.
WHO said that nearly 18,600 people have become infected with Ebola in these three countries since the outbreak started last December, while 6,900 people have died.
The change of trend in Sierra Leone came as UN agencies and thenational government have stepped up efforts to break the
chains of virus transmissions in the west of the country, by isolating patients, increasing hospital beds and training health staff.
Food security in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – where border closures, quarantines and hunting bans have been imposed – has deteriorated due to crop losses and the disruption of production and supply chains.
“The outbreak has revealed the vulnerability of current food production systems and value chains in the
worst Ebola-affected countries,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO’s regional representative for Africa.
In addition, the outbreak has hurt the overall economies in the three countries, leaving them with less money to pay for necessary food imports.
FAO and WFP urged donors to jump-start agriculture in the region by funding necessary products including seeds, fertilisers and farming technology. They also recommended that people should be given cash or vouchers to stimulate markets.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would visit four Ebola-affected countries in West Africa to show his solidary and urge continued support in the fight against the virus.
Ban said he was to leave New York Wednesday night to travel to Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone. He will also visit the headquarters of the UN emergency Ebola mission in Ghana.
“I want to see the response for myself, and show my solidarity with those affected and urge even greater global action,” Ban said.