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Serious Food Security Concerns in Liberia
Ban Ki-moon's newly appointed-Senior UN Systems Coordinator for Ebola, Dr. David Nabarro, on a two-day visit in Monrovia, last week, said there is a need for urgent measures to be put in place to address “serious food security concerns” as being among actions of the United Nations to respond to the Ebola Virus Disease.
Speaking at a meeting in Monrovia with the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Dr. Nabarro said the risk posed to food security by the Ebola crisis could further exacerbate an already fragile situation if the country is isolated due to the fear of catching the disease. Dr. Nabarro was on a tour in affected countries as part of efforts by the UN to fight the spread of the disease.
The United Nations Country Team (UNCT) in Liberia has developed a draft UN Joint Strategic Response Plan as part of a consolidated effort in assisting the Government of Liberia fight the deadly Ebola virus disease.
Curbing human-to-human transmission is the most important focus for governments and international health agencies. However, there is an urgent need to assess and respond to the secondary effects of the outbreak that risk to negatively impact the food security and livelihoods of the affected population. As part of the Team on the ground, FAO Representative in Liberia, Jean-Alexandre Scaglia, said: “Travel restrictions and displacements are likely to affect the food chain and threaten to disrupt the production to access to markets, as well as trading activities. How we will replenish food stocks as we are at the beginning of the lean season is a major concern at the moment.”
"Although there were cassava tubers available in many parts of Liberia, processing and getting them to Monrovia and other Ebola-affected areas is currently a major constraint", added Scaglia. There is urgent need for emergency short-cycled vegetable production as well as urgent support to fishermen with the right inputs and materials to enable them increase their catch for the availability of more fish to the population to improve their diets in the wake of the ban on bush meat", he emphasized, appealing to the international community for strong advocacy against the isolation of the country.
The UN efforts are also directed towards providing needed assistance in the area of social mobilization and communication, contact tracing, support to health care services, strengthen logistical management, food and nutritional support to treatment centers as well as strengthening early warning and surveillance.
Under the food security component of the proposed Joint UN Strategic Plan, FAO will lead rapid assessments on food security and nutrition and efforts to provide agricultural and livelihood support to farmers and farmers groups affected by the outbreak leading to loss in food production, rising prices and food unavailability.