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I N T E R N A T I O N A L

Havana.  November  7, 2014

Ebola and hunger on the
African continent

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has aggravated the food situation in the region, principally in Guinea-Conakry, Liberia and Sierra Leona, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The Institute emphasized that the shortage of food will lead to thousands of more deaths among those infected with Ebola, and called on the international community to join forces to assure adequate nutrition for the ill, as well as others who have limited access to food.

The three countries most impacted by the epidemic are among the world’s poorest, and prices of agricultural products have sky-rocketed, since farmers and agricultural workers are abandoning the area.

The World Bank has estimated that, if the Ebola virus continues to spread, the epidemic could cost West Africa more than 32 billion dollars, by the end of 2015.

The IFPRI is insisting that, in order to prevent future suffering when the epidemic is controlled, essential social measures and policies to support agriculture must be implemented.

"Investing in the vulnerable population’s nutrition and health could reduce the mortality rate of illnesses such as Ebola, since the level of nutrition and infection are closely related," the Institute emphasizes.

The United Nations’ World Food Programme, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have stepped up and ensured access to basic foods for some 1.3 million people and 90,000 rural families in the three affected countries.

Nevertheless, the IFPRI describes prospects for the coming harvest season as alarming, given the limited workforce available, warning that the food security of thousands of people is at risk.

Other international organizations have noted the severity of measures implemented to contain the epidemic, which have made access to food difficult for a large part of the population, while the closing of schools in Sierra Leone has kept children away from nutritional support programs upon which many depend.

Likewise, restrictions on the consumption of wild game - the presumed initial source of Ebola - has eliminated a traditional source of protein in the local diet.

While it is now necessary to direct international funds toward controlling and eradicating Ebola in West Africa, thought must be given to solving long-standing problems in the most affected countries.

To date, Ebola has caused 5,000 deaths among the approximately 10,000 infected, according to recent reports from the World Health Organization, which has had a serious impact on the production and distribution of food in the worst-hit countries.

Currently, five new cases of Ebola are identified every hour, according to the non governmental organization Save the Children. The rate at which the virus is spreading has been called "terrifying" and endangers all sectors of the economy in these nations. (PL)
 

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