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Global famine could destroy society if Ebola outbreak isn't stopped, United Nations warns

Global famine

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(NaturalNews) The United Nations (UN) World Food Program (WFP) is having trouble meeting the escalating hunger needs of West Africans, millions of whom are currently suffering through the worst Ebola outbreak in history. And as the disease continues to spread, the threat of food shortages, and possibly a worldwide famine, is steadily increasing, says the global body.

The WFP says its goal is to reach 1.3 million people in the hardest hit areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the collective epicenter of the outbreak. At this point, it has only provided food aid to some 534,000 individuals, leaving more than 750,000 others in the cold. By the end of October, however, the WFP hopes to help close this gap by reaching 600,000 to 700,000 people.

"The world is mobilizing and we need to reach the smallest villages in the most remote locations," stated Denise Brown, WFP's regional director for West Africa, in a recent statement. "Indications are that things will get worse before they improve. How much worse depends on us all."

Farmers in Ebola-hit areas flee region for refuge

When the outbreak first started gaining traction back in August, it was reported that food prices were already skyrocketing in many areas of the three countries. In Liberia's Lofa County, for instance, a rural area that was declared to be the worst affected by Ebola, food prices jumped by as much as 75 percent in August. And in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, the price of cassava, a staple food item, increased by almost 150 percent.

Living wages are already considerably low throughout the region, with some folks spending more than half of their total income on food. The added pressure of the Ebola crisis has left many West Africans with little or nothing to eat, due not only to higher food prices but also to food shortages caused by not enough food making it to market.

Part of the problem is that ongoing travel restrictions have blocked the import and export of food among the afflicted countries, making food harder to come by. People are also being barred from going to work due to these same restrictions, creating a perfect storm of decreased incomes, higher food prices and food shortages.

If Ebola numbers reach predictions, millions could face 'extreme' food shortages

If the UN is able to reach its short-term goals, most of those currently in need of rations in West Africa will be covered. But some groups are predicting a massive surge in Ebola cases come January, a situation that could lead to moderate or even extreme food shortages for millions of people.

"Contingency planning for an expanded emergency food assistance response is urgently needed given that the size of the food insecure population could be two to three times higher than currently planned," stated the Famine Early Warning Network, which says the total number of Ebola cases could reach 250,000 by mid-January.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is also getting involved with plans to conduct a survey on malnutrition rates. The agency division is also planning to hand out "seeds and tools" to local farmers, encouraging them to stay put and continue providing for their families and communities.

"We are assessing how families are coping as the virus keeps spreading," stated Bettina Luescher, WFP's chief spokesperson in North America, to The Associated Press. "We expect to have a better understanding of the impact of the Ebola outbreak on food availability and farming activities by the end of October."

To learn more about how to prepare for possible food shortages in your own area, be sure to check out Pandemic Preparedness "Episode 11: Preparing for an Ebola outbreak in America" at BioDefense.com.






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