Ebola Virus Disease:
EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. EVD spreads through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people. No vaccine for EVD is available and severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During this outbreak, EVD has killed approximately 55% of those infected.
The FAO issued a special alert for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries most affected by the outbreak, which has killed around 1,550 people since the virus was detected in the remote jungles of southeastern Guinea in March.
Restrictions on people's movements and the establishment of quarantine zones to contain the spread of the hemorrhagic fever has led to panic buying, food shortages and price hikes in countries ill-prepared to absorb the shock.
"Even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the most affected areas were spending up to 80 percent of their incomes on food," said Vincent Martin, head of an FAO unit in Dakar which is coordinating the agency's response.
Cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber will be seriously affected, squeezing the purchasing power of many families, who will also lose income and nutrition due to the ban on bush meat.
Border crossing closures and the reduction of trade through seaports have tightened food supplies in the three countries, which are all net cereal importers, and propelled prices upwards, exacerbated by higher transport costs.
The UN World Food Program and FAO have approved an emergency program to deliver 65,000 tonnes of food to 1.3 million people affected by Ebola over a three-month period.
The price of cassava at a market in the Liberian capital Monrovia rose 150 percent in the first weeks of August, the FAO said, adding that currency depreciation in Sierra Leone and Liberia was likely to force prices up further.