The fight against Ebola in West Africa.
Photo: © EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis

New programme to tackle Ebola related food insecurity

Ebola is threatening food security in many regions. FAO launches a new programme to support vulnerable households in West Africa.

A new programme to urgently assist 90 000 vulnerable households in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone whose food supplies and livelihoods are threatened by the disruptive effect the Ebola epidemic is having on rural economies, agricultural activities and markets was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in October 2014.

The programme, called The Regional Response Programme for West Africa, will scale-up the work FAO is currently doing with governments, United Nations partners and local networks of agriculture, veterinary and forestry workers, to help stop the spread of the disease, meet immediate and long-term food and nutrition security needs and build resilience. 

FAO is urgently calling for USD 30 million to support activities linked to the programme over the next twelve months. Programme activities are organised around four key objectives: 

  • contribute to saving lives by stopping the spread of the disease through social mobilisation, training and awareness raising; 
  • boost incomes and agricultural production to safeguard livelihoods; 
  • build resilience of communities to disease threats; and 
  • strengthen coordination for improved response. 

FAO is following a twin-track approach to help halt the tragic loss of life while at the same time protecting incomes, nutrition levels and food security. Activities include mobilising communities to reduce their risk of infection through awareness campaigns; boosting food and cash crops, livestock and fisheries production, introducing microfinance strategies to safeguard rural incomes; and setting up early warning and response systems to reduce Ebola risks at the human-animal interface. The programme will also ensure countries are coordinated and resourced by filling gaps in expertise, increasing knowledge sharing on best-practices and building collaborative networks. 

Early results from rapid assessments point to a worrisome situation. In Sierra Leone, for example, 47 per cent of the respondents said Ebola was considerably disrupting their farming activities. In Lofa county, the most affected rural county in Liberia, the prices of commodities, including food, increased from 30 to 75 per cent just in August 2014. 

FAO mobilised its own funds to support United Nations’ and governments’ efforts. However, much more is needed and right away. FAO is calling for urgent support to enable the Organisation to continue assisting vulnerable communities in affected and at-risk countries while also safeguarding their futures.

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