Liberia, FAO and WFP start Rapid Food Security Assessment

Liberia, FAO and WFP start Rapid Food Security Assessment

01/10/2014

The Liberian Ministry of Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) together with sector partners embark on a most urgent joint two-week rapid field assessment mission on food security and livelihoods to Liberia’s 15 counties as part of efforts to mitigate any food insecurity at community level following the outbreak of the lethal Ebola virus disease.

The conduct of the assessment also includes Action Contre La Faim (ACF) and the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS). This partnership will enable a common comprehension of the situation on food security, livelihoods, and agriculture, leading to a seamless approach to contribute to the mobilization of the required national and international support for populations in need. This exercise aims to gather the information necessary to analyse the impact that the Ebola virus disease has had to date on agriculture, livelihoods and food security in affected communities.

“The results of this rapid assessment will help us develop an understanding of the critical needs of the population in order to design immediate actions to meet the population’s most urgent needs,” said FAO Liberia’s National Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Consultant, Jesse Yuan.

FAO and WFP are adopting a multisector approach to reaching participants. This will include focus group discussions and questionnaires with farmers, forest users, traders as well as community leaders, elders and women and youth groups. The Ebola virus disease, which broke out in Liberia on 22 March, has negatively affected food security, commerce and agriculture. Depending on the impacts, Liberia’s fiscal budget for 2014 could experience a shortfall of over US$115 million, according to Finance Minister Amara Konneh.

Political and collective commitment

World leaders gathered at the recent UN General Assembly, including FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva, expressed their strong commitment to mobilizing the resources and means necessary to halt the deadly epidemic as a matter of emergency.

On the ground, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) is continuing its deployment in Accra, Ghana, as well as in the three most impacted countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Food security constitutes one of UNMEER’s priorities, along with Public Health, Anthony Banbury, the Head of UNMEER confirmed in a first largely attended teleconference from New York, last week, with UN Specialized Agencies in Geneva, Bonn, Rome, Accra and Dakar in addition to NGO representatives.

“The FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra will join forces and hands with UNMEER to urgently assist agriculture dependent-livelihoods and most vulnerable communities,” Office Head Bukar Tijani told Banbury in the teleconference, assuring him of FAO’s firm support.

As the death toll recently breached 3 000 deaths, the Senegalese authorities opened a humanitarian air corridor on 27 September via Dakar to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries most affected by Ebola.

FAO Liberia’s recent field visit to hard-hit communities in Lofa County showed that in those specific areas, Ebola has affected income, livelihoods and agriculture. Savings consolidated over several years have been completely depleted due to the disease’s destruction of income-generating opportunities. Without income, women in Lofa County have not been able to repay their loans for the past two months.

As emphasized by FAO Representative a.i. in Liberia, Alexis Bonte, this directly impacts food security and the local economy, as these savings and loans were necessary for micro trade, food procurement, agricultural input purchases, agro processing and small food businesses.” “The joint FAO-WFP assessment represents an important opportunity to engage in evidence-based planning and response to reduce the impact of the Ebola on the people”, said WFP Liberia’s Emergency Coordinator, Christophe Boutonnier.