Ebola not the only major problem in Africa

Published 12.11.2014 02:08
Updated 12.11.2014 09:44
Ebola not the only major problem in Africa

As African countries suffer from major political conflicts, which are inextricably linked with the food crisis, the Ebola outbreak has become a consequence of the unresolved political crises on the continent

Amid fears of a further spread of the Ebola virus within African countries, growing food insecurity and famine still remains the major threat for African countries like South Sudan and Liberia. Both countries have been facing severe food shortages driven by major political conflicts that still remain unresolved as well as an ineffective health system that has led to the conflict-driven countries becoming more vulnerable to the Ebola virus. Unless the political crisis can be solved in Africa, African countries remain the most likely to suffer from fast-spreading infectious diseases like Ebola.

Liberia, an undeveloped country and a low-income food-deficit country, was considered vulnerable to the Ebola virus. Once the Ebola virus hit the country, the health system was paralyzed by the political conflict and the ineffective Liberian government policies to fight the outbreak was unable to prevent the virus from spreading.

Since a coup d'état in 1980, which ousted the civilian government and ushered in a military regime, Liberia has suffered from major political upheavals that posed a grave threat to economic growth. Widespread food insecurity among the Liberian population and poverty remain among the major problems. The government-led 2012 Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey (CFSNS) indicated that every fifth household in Liberia is food insecure. "The chronic malnutrition rate remains high nationally [36 percent], and infant and young child feeding practices are poor," said the World Food Program (WFP) regarding the survey.

Amid futile attempts to stop the outbreak across Liberia, the Liberian economy has stalled, reducing productivity. The Ebola epidemic has already seriously disrupted agricultural production and commerce in Liberia together with other Ebola-affected West African countries like Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Ebola virus has hit major agricultural lands with many farmers preferring to stay home out of fear of infection.

With regard to the food security impact of the Ebola outbreak, the U.N. has warned that Ebola has "endangered harvests and sent food prices soaring throughout West Africa, rapidly creating a major food crisis in the region," in a press release on October 1. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization also underscored the negative effect of "the border closures and quarantines which resulted in food shortages and labor shortages."

Even though there has been no Ebola case reported in South Sudan, the "man-made crisis" has made the country vulnerable to an outbreak as there is no effective system left within the country to fight against the Ebola virus. A terrifying outbreak of political conflict has made the country open to major health crises, caused by the Ebola virus. In addition, due to political conflict, there is no political authority left to fight severe food insecurity and famine in South Sudan.

"As the dry season begins, the brutal conflict that provoked this disaster is about to get worse. Without an end to the fighting, famine remains a serious threat in 2015," said Oxfam in a report "From Crisis to Catastrophe," released on October 6.

Regarding the vast scale of the current suffering in South Sudan, the report indicates that "By the end of September, experts report that the food situation is much worse compared to a typical year at harvest time. In 2015, agencies predict that the situation will worsen significantly. The most recent forecast suggests that the number of severely hungry people will rise by 1 million between January and March 2015."

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people, most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There have been a number of cases in Spain and the U.S. over the last months. Many international organizations have focused on the situation in the Ebola-hit West African countries in an attempt to further prevent the disease among other African countries and the West.

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