This is according to reports on the three countries published by the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP)
The agencies said that the only means of preventing this crisis is by putting measures in place to safeguard crops and livestock production in the West African region.
The report also noted that border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people’s access to food, threatening livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains as well as exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates.
(READ MORE: Ebola shrinks West Africa’s poorest economies)
“In December 2014, half a million people are estimated to be severely food insecure in the three worst hit Western African countries,” stated the report.
In Guinea, 230 000 people are estimated to be severely food insecure, with the number set to increase to more than 470 000 by March 2015.
In Liberia, the impact of food insecurity will increase from 170 000 people to 300 000 by March 2015 while increasing from 120 000 to 280 000 in Sierra Leone.
The Ebola outbreak has caused a significant shock to the food and agriculture sectors in the affected countries. The report showed that while crop losses appear relatively modest at national level, sharp disparities in production have emerged between areas with high infection and other regions in the three countries.
“The outbreak has revealed the vulnerability of current food production systems and value chains in the worst Ebola-affected countries”, said FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Africa, Bukar Tijani.
“FAO and partners need to act urgently to overcome the agriculture and market disruptions and their immediate impact on livelihoods which could result in a food security crisis. With timely support, we can prevent the outbreak from having a severe and long-lasting impact on rural communities.”
Denise Brown, WFP emergency response coordinator in Dakar, added that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been a wakeup call for the world.
“The virus is having a terrible impact on the three worst-hit countries and will continue to affect many people’s access to food for the foreseeable future. While working with partners to make things better, we must be prepared for them to get worse,” she said.
The FAO and WFP have therefore called for the re-establishment of the farming system in the three countries.
“Measures should enable most severely affected people to access agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers, in time for the next planting season and adopt improved technology to address labour shortages,” stated the report.
It also recommends the introduction of cash transfers or vouchers for affected people to buy food as a way of overcoming their income loss and help stimulate markets.
FAO is currently providing assistance to 200 000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone while the WFP is focusing on meeting the basic food and nutrition needs of affected communities and families in the region.
“The scope of the crisis remains large in 2015, and both UN agencies urgently require more funding to continue to assist the most vulnerable communities whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the disease.”