EU Science Hub

Ebola to worsen food security conditions in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea

In some areas rice harvests are well below average.
©Gajus, Fotolia.com
Jan 13 2015

The negative impact of the Ebola outbreak on household incomes and markets has led to food insecurity due to lack of access to food. Economic activities have been seriously disrupted as a result of restrictions that were imposed on movement and trade in order to limit the transmission of the disease. This economic slowdown has hit all areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, irrespective of the magnitude of the Ebola epidemic.

Although overall food availability is not expected to be significantly reduced compared to a normal year, areas severely hit by the Ebola outbreak may face serious food shortages at the start of 2015 when food stocks from the current harvest will be exhausted. This is particularly the case for N’zérékore in Guinea, Lofa and Margibi in Liberia, and Kailahun and Kanema in Sierra Leone, where rice harvests are well below average and the movement of goods and people is still restricted, according to a recently published JRC report. The most affected are households directly hit by Ebola, casual and agricultural workers.

The report is an analysis of information provided by international and humanitarian organisations, as well as from media reports. It aims to help the European Commission prioritise its interventions in the area and recommends the provision of income support and the improvement of transport conditions in order to help stimulate the flagging economy.

Many households will require direct aid to cope with the effects of the Ebola outbreak, the largest ever in terms of numbers of cases recorded (17 972 as of early December 2014) and geographical zones affected. Households affected by Ebola face reduced incomes and access to food due to the incapacitation and quarantine of income earners. Food trade was hampered by the closing of many main border crossing points, leading to reduced food availability and increased prices in markets. Fear of contracting the virus also led some farmers to abandon their farms and food stocks and limit their work in the fields. A ban on bush meat was also imposed in Liberia and Sierra Leone due to suspicions that it could be a host for the virus.

The countries most affected by the virus already suffer from chronic food insecurity. Income support is critical to avoid adding a food crisis to the Ebola health crisis, and to stimulate the local economies, limit the impact of the economic slowdown, and improve household resilience to further shocks.

 ebola cases in november 2014
Ebola cases in the three most affected countries of West Africa in November 2014 (Source: EC-JRC based on data from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)).
© EU, 2014

 

JRC wide hidden block