Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone – the three West African countries worse hit by the Ebola epidemic, face acute food shortage and hike in food prices due to the deadly disease. The shortage of farm hands and the restriction on movement of people due to the spread of the disease as caused panic buying and a resultant hike in food prices.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that the three affected countries could face terrible food situations in the coming months due to restrictions on movements, and the fear of Ebola spread. The deadly epidemic spreads by contact with infected persons, and many infected patients fear being quarantined and therefore go ahead to mix with other people, thereby heightening the risks of the disease. The fear of getting infected has kept many people away from markets and farms and schools and other places, and this is causing food shortage and price hikes.

According to Vincent Martin, a FAO unit head in Dakar, “even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the most affected areas were spending up to 80% of their incomes on food. Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach.”

With the ban on eating bush meat, and the staying put of hunters at home, things are getting out of control. Borders have also been closed to limit the movement of people and the spread of the disease, and trade relations through the seaports have nosedived to set the prices of cereal, corn, palm oil, meat, cocoa and others rocket high. The prices of cassava have also skyrocketed and this among others happens to be the main staple food for many West Africans.

The UN FAO and the World Food Programme have however approved that 65,000 tonnes of food be delivered to about 1.3 million people which the Ebola virus and spread has affected. This food intervention will be done over a three-month period in select areas.

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