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

The United Nations World Food Programme is continuing to scale up its operations to provide food and logistical support 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 the Ebola emergency response, 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. Providing timely, nutritious food to the Ebola treatment centres is vital to help patients recover. Food assistance is also 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. 

In Sierra Leone, WFP’s immediate priority is to provide food to the five quarantined districts of Port Loko, Bombali, Moyamba, Kenema, and Kailahun, along with Ebola treatment and holding centres, quarantined hot spots in Freetown, and other parts of the country.  In September, WFP food provided 1,200 mt of food to over 208,000 people across the country.

Food distributions are ongoing in treatment centres and quarantined areas in Freetown.  Additionally, trucks loaded with food have been prepositioned to expand WFP distributions to rural areas this week.

 “I visited quarantined households last week in Makeni and Port Loko districts, and I have seen the suffering. We are doing everything we can here at the World Food Programme to reach about 600,000 people who have been affected by the Ebola crisis. We will keep on working and try to help those who need our assistance.” says John Crisci, WFP Emergency Coordinator.

WFP is also working with humanitarian partners to boost telecommunications coverage in affected areas.

The Ebola Virus Disease is not just a health crisis: it has grave humanitarian, economic and social consequences that could spread far beyond the affected countries.  Because it is an unprecedented emergency, WFP has also been called on to provide logistics, expertise and assistance, particularly to medical partners, to help with the construction of infrastructure, logistics, storage, procurement, and transport. Getting aid workers and supplies to the stricken areas is vital: WFP manages the Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) to transport 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.

 “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 disaster… 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.

It has been necessary to adapt swiftly in a rapidly evolving situation to ensure that food assistance supports the Ebola response, without creating further risks for people in the affected areas, or for our own staff and partners.  The situation is fluid, so excellent communications with government and partners are crucial to help identify the communities in need.

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.