“FAO today launched 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,” said the organisation in a statement.
(READ MORE: Ebola threatens food security in West Africa)
The initiative, also known as the Regional Response Programme for West Africa, will scale up partnerships between FAO and its partners, local networks and governments in order to meet immediate and long term food and nutrition security needs.
“Our comprehensive response is part of overall United Nations efforts to save lives and protect livelihoods. We’re following a twin-track approach to help our United Nations partners halt the tragic loss of life while at the same time protecting incomes, nutrition levels and food security,” said Vincent Martin, head of FAO’s Dakar-based sub-regional resilience hub, the office coordinating FAO’s response.
30 million US dollars however is required to support activities linked to the programme over the next 12 months. Activities include increased training and awareness, boosting incomes and agricultural production and building resilience of communities to disease threats.
(READ MORE: Ebola shrinks West Africa’s poorest economies)
Bukar Tijani, assistant director-general/regional representative of the Regional Office for Africa, added that the programme needs to be implemented immediately.
“These actions cannot wait. The outbreak is already reducing the purchasing power of vulnerable households, which means less food on their plates and increased nutritional risks for families already on subsistence diets. Fear and stigmatization also threaten to reduce agricultural activities, thereby placing food security at risk,” he added.
According to FAO, early assessments conducted in Sierra Leone indicated that 47 per cent of respondents said Ebola was disrupting their farming activities while in Lofa County, the most affected region in Liberia, prices of commodities and food increased from 30 to 75 per cent in August this year.
“If not addressed now, the current impact of the outbreak on livelihoods could lead to long-lasting impacts on farmers’ livelihoods and rural economies,” continued the statement.