UN World Food Programme

WFP Steps Up Assistance to Meet Urgent Food Needs of Families and Communities Affected By Ebola

Local community leader Mariame Boyo informs people at a distribution site in Guinea about the risks of the virus. Explaining that the distributed food cannot be infected with Ebola is essential for the community’s understanding and acceptance of the food assistance. (Copyright: WFP/Merel van Egdom)

The United Nations World Food Programme is scaling up its operations to provide food to around 1 million people living in restricted access areas in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Since the official declaration of the outbreak on March 21st 2014, WFP Guinea has provided food to 34,000 people directly and indirectly affected by the outbreak. In response to the continued spread of the virus, WFP Guinea is scaling up its emergency assistance to support 370,325 people in Guinea. 

WFP's regional response presents a significant scale-up from the initial support, and addresses the current context: availability of food and access to sufficient quantity and quality of food is expected to pose a large challenge for affected communities.

“Emergency food and nutrition assistance is essential to help people affected by Ebola to recover socially and economically,” said Elisabeth Faure, a representative of WFP Guinea.

The majority of Ebola victims fall within the 15-45 age bracket and are therefore frequently the main income providers of their households. As a result, family members of infected, cured or diseased victims often suffer from reduced household incomes and are stigmatized as well.  To meet their urgent food needs, WFP Guinea is providing these families with a complete food basket of rice, vegetables, oil, salt and supercereal+ (mix of Cereal, sugar and milk) for a period of 90 days.

“Before I got infected with Ebola I was a farmer, but due to my illness I’m behind with my activities this year,” said Saa Thomas Teinguinano, 44, a survivor of Ebola  and a household head of a family of five from Forest Guinea. “WFP assistance has come at the right time, because without it we would have experienced food shortages, which would have been a second disaster on top of Ebola.”

WFP’s aim is to prevent this health crisis from becoming a food crisis. Besides affecting families of infected, cured or diseased Ebola victims, the outbreak is having an impact on the overall availability and price of food in the affected areas. As a result of quarantine and disruptions in production and trade, livelihood activities in the region are expected to deteriorate, putting increasing pressure on the most vulnerable and food insecure populations.

The rainy season, which causes frequent floods, also complicates the logistical situation. On top of that, many health and nutrition centers have closed down because patients and doctors are scared of contracting the virus. This is having a negative impact on the provision of regular healthcare services, as well as on the treatment for child malnutrition.

On top of its emergency food assistance, WFP is also assisting the wider humanitarian community with logistics, helping other organisations to get aid workers and critical supplies into the affected areas. Under the lead of WFP, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) is currently operating across the three affected countries and has flown more than 100 passengers from organisations including WHO, UNICEF, MSF, and WFP into and out of the Ebola affected areas.