Ebola ‘potentially devastating’ to food-insecure populations

UN Secretary-General will visit West Africa to ‘show solidarity with those affected’

UN NEWS CENTRE | 17 December 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced he will leave today for the countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak “to show my solidarity with those affected and urge even greater global action” to fight the epidemic, which two United Nations food agencies said could push the number of people facing food insecurity to more than one million by next spring.

Disease Surveillance Officer Sahr Brima Sewa visits a family in Moyinba, Sierra Leone, that has just lost a relative suspected of Ebola. UNMEER/Martine Perret

Disease Surveillance Officer Sahr Brima Sewa visits a family in Moyinba, Sierra Leone, that has just lost a relative suspected of Ebola. UNMEER/Martine Perret

“The disease’s impact is potentially devastating in the three countries already coping with chronic food insecurity,” according to a press release issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). Already this month, the agencies said half a million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

FAO and WFP said reports from their offices in the three most-affected countries show that “border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people’s access to food, threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates.”

The Rome-based UN agencies warned that “the number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015 unless access to food is drastically improved and measures are put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production.”

At a year-end press conference at UN headquarters, the UN Secretary-General said he will leave later today to visit Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone, the four countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak, as well as Ghana, the headquarters of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

Mr. Ban said he will be accompanied on the trip by the Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, and his Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro.

“I want to see the response for myself, and show my solidarity with those affected and urge even greater global action,” Mr. Ban said.

Meet some of the UN personnel from around the world working on #EbolaResponse in West Africa.  Our UNMEER colleagues have been counting down #21days to the new year with 21 ways they are working to stop the outbreak.

Meet some of the UN personnel from around the world working on #EbolaResponse in West Africa.
Our UNMEER colleagues have been counting down #21days to the new year with 21 ways they are working to stop the outbreak.

“Ebola responders are doing heroic work,” he told reporters. “Local communities and national governments are highly engaged. There has been an impressive outpouring of life-saving contributions from across Africa and across the world.”

Mr. Ban went on to say: “The Ebola response strategy is working, and we are beginning to see improvements.”

“But now is not the time to ease up on our efforts,” he said. “As long as there is one case of Ebola, the risk remains. We must do everything we can to get to zero.”

Read the full article, including more on UNMEER and the global Ebola response, here.