Ebola Epidemic In West Africa Threatens With Food Crisis

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Since its outbreak in December 2013, Ebola virus took away what is estimated to be approximately 4,000 lives in West Africa. The locals have to struggle not only with the virus, but with diminishing food supplies and soaring prices.

Shrinking economy of the country suffers from the impact of several quarantines and growing expenses for medical care, and Africa experts from the Brookings Institution expect this tendency to continue. The gap between supply and demand is yawning, and it grows steadily as agriculture sector of the region’s economy goes into a tailspin, hindered by restrictions on the movement of population and commodities. This causes an ongoing rise of food prices.

The toll of Ebola outbreak and economic recession associated with it is predicted to persist for several post-epidemic years. For a developing country like Sierra Leone this is a disastrous prognosis; the country’s staggering economics has hardly begun to improve its per capita income index that reached $680 in 2013, with the bigger part of the population still leaving in extreme austerity.

The country’s regions most affected by the destructive power of the virus, Kailahun and Kenema, were major suppliers of agricultural products before Ebola outbreak. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) September report, only 10 percent of the key agricultural area of the country has been cultivated, aggravating the nurturing crisis.

The trough in the agriculture sector of West Africa economy is worsened due to negligence and reluctance of responsible agents to act in the region affected by the virus, as related by the World Bank in its report issued on September 17.

Liberia appears to be affected most by Ebola outbreak; its per capita income was also the lowest before the epidemic. Migration, death toll and quarantines bring shortage in working force, depriving cultivation and farming industries and complicating harvesting and replanting processes.

Economic slide consequences are experienced in Guinea, too, but not to such extent as in the two previous countries, despite a high level of epidemic mortality.

The service sector of Guinea suffers from reduced number of international flights and withdrawal of overseas workers. The impact on trade is also felt through the reduction in coffee, cocoa and palm oil turnover.

In the interview with United Nations FAO analysts, published in Business Times, concerns about the rapidly deteriorating situation were expressed. A quick estimation of price increase is 150 percent and growing still. The major concern, however, is that the number of the countries eventually affected by the crisis may not be limited to these three.

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