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As Ebola poses threat to food security…

FAO urges urgent measures

OCTOBER 7, 2014 By Alusine Sesay

While launching a preliminary report on the Rapid Assessment on the food security situation in the context of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Country Representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dr. Gabriel Regulema, has urged that urgent measures are needed to address the current food security gaps and rehabilitate key agricultural market infrastructure to ensure quick recovery of the sector.

According to the report, the outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease erupted at a crucial period in the agricultural season for rice and other important food crops as many farmers were unable to complete key time-critical agricultural activities.

The assessment, which applied a national participatory multi-sectoral approach with participation of key actors, including the UN, government, private and public partners among others, noted that the government’s response to contain the EVD epidemic has led to price fluctuations of food commodities largely due to the closure of markets, roads and banks.

“The quarantine measures and restrictions have disrupted the marketing of goods including agricultural produce. Disruptions in trade for inputs and food products are a result of travel restrictions and suspension of operations of weekly markets normally called ‘lumas’,” the report noted.

It is also indicated in the report that the disruption and closure of periodic markets has helped spike an increase in prices of commodities in places where they are in high demand and a reduction in places where supply is in excess.

“The study shows that the prices have increased between 13% for imported rice to over 40% for fish. Other commodities affected include cassava, groundnut and palm oil,” the report stated.

The report further pointed out that the decrease in prices of agricultural commodities has deprived farming households of income to participate in both production and agribusiness. It said that there has been a disruption in farming activities due to shortage of labour for weeding, harvesting and crucial activities as a result of death of able-bodied persons.

“The reduction in production levels and incomes has directly affected food security. The study revealed that at least 72% of the respondents are having one meal per day,” said the report.

Meanwhile, the assessment targeted 702 households in the provinces, with three chiefdoms visited in each district across the country.