The UN World Food Programme is continuing to scale up its operations to provide food to over 1 million people affected by the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The three pillars of WFP support in the Ebola crisis are to deliver food alongside the health response, ensure the movement of partner staff and equipment, and provide logistical services and infrastructure support for health partners.
With its operations across the three most affected countries, WFP seeks to reach patients in Ebola treatment centres, discharged Ebola survivors, communities with widespread and intense transmission, and the families of people infected with Ebola.
In Liberia, WFP is aiming to provide food to over 400,000 people in areas of widespread and intense transmission of the Ebola virus over coming months. So far more than 100,000 have been reached.
“Food assistance is crucial for families who have a member affected by the virus, or who are living in quarantined areas, as they have often lost a source of income and cannot buy food in the market,” said Wurie AlGhassim, deputy head of WFP’s Liberia office.
New food distributions are now starting in the northern Lofa County, where transmission of the virus has been widespread, and in the New Kru Town slum of the capital Monrovia, which has been similarly affected.
“It’s difficult. It’s not a food security or malnutrition crisis. We are used to handling that, whether it’s a conflict, earthquake, or natural disasters… This is human suffering at its most complicated. Everybody just does their best to treat the symptoms.
“As WFP, we are shifting gears and at the same time trying to keep up with the spread of the virus,” said Denise Brown, WFP Regional Director, after field visits to Liberia and Guinea.
Through WFP, the Logistics Cluster has established a hub in Monrovia with a storage capacity of 3,000 square meters. Exclusively dedicated to the Ebola response, it is already managing, dispatching, and tracking the health cargo stock of other humanitarian organizations. The Logistics Cluster is also providing unprecedented engineering support to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the construction of four new Ebola Treatment Units in Monrovia that will accommodate 400 beds.
A joint assessment mission of the Food and Agriculture Association and WFP is currently touring Liberia to gauge how Ebola has affected people’s access to food and food production. This will inform decisions on which form of food assistance is most suitable.
As well as food, WFP has also been called on to provide logistics expertise and assistance, particularly to medical partners. It is helping with the construction of infrastructure, logistics, storage, procurement, and transport.
One vital area is getting aid workers and supplies to the stricken areas. WFP, which manages the Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), can help by transporting humanitarian workers and deliver light cargo between and within the three affected countries. As of 7 October, UNHAS is providing regular connections between Dakar, Conakry, Freetown, Monrovia, and Accra in a recently established humanitarian corridor.
WFP is very grateful to all donors supporting our work to help stop Ebola but more funding is needed. As of October 31, the top six donors to WFP's Ebola response are the World Bank (through the Governents of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia), Canada, the United States, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Japan, and China.