One of the Ebola epicentres, the district of Kailahun, in eastern Sierra Leone bordering Guinea, was put under quarantine at the beginning of August.
Photo: © EC/ECHO/Cyprien Fabre/

Food distribution and harvest affected by Ebola outbreak

FAO warns of serious food shortages and poor farm production in Ebola stricken African countries.

According to a special alert issued by the UN Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) on 2nd September; the outbreak of Ebola threatens harvest due to labour shortages and has also led to an increase in the food prices.

In the West-African countries Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, quarantine zones and restrictions on people's movement aimed at combating the spread of the virus, although necessary, have seriously curtailed the movement and marketing of food. This has lead to panic buying, food shortages and significant food price hikes on some commodities, especially in urban centers, notes FAO.

Moreover, the Ebola outbreak comes just a few weeks before the harvest season of rice and maize which are major crops in the region starts. The FAO alert perceives that labour shortages on farms due to movement restrictions and migration to other areas will seriously impact farm production, jeopardizing the food security of large numbers of people. Likewise, production of cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber - on which the livelihoods and food purchasing power of many families depend - is expected to be seriously affected.

According to FAO, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are all net cereal importers, with Liberia being the most reliant on external supplies. The closure of some border crossings and the isolation of border areas where the three countries intersect - as well as reduced trade from seaports, the main conduit for large-scale commercial imports - are resulting in tighter supplies and sharply increasing food prices.

More information:   Download Alert  (FAO)