Victims of the food crisis.
The threat of hunger is tracking Ebola across affected West African nations as the disease kills farmers and their families, drives workers from the fields and creates food shortages. In the worst-hit states of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Ebola is ravaging their food-producing 'breadbasket' regions, preventing planting and harvesting, and disrupting supply routes and markets.
"Hunger will kill us where Ebola failed," said Pa Sorie, a 61-year-old rice and cassava farmer in Port Loko in northern Sierra Leone. A father of six with four grandchildren, he says he has already lost three close relatives to Ebola.
The UN's World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation say border and market closures, quarantines and movement restrictions, and widespread fear of Ebola have led to food scarcity, panic buying and price increases
, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Since it was first reported in the forest region of Guinea in March, the hemorrhagic fever has killed 3,338 people. It crossed into Liberia and Sierra Leone and has triggered smaller outbreaks and cases in Nigeria, Senegal and even the United States, prompting the World Health Organization to declare an international public health emergency on Aug. 8.
As governments from the United States to China and Cuba send troops and medics to the affected corner of Africa in an attempt to contain the epidemic, relief agencies are scrambling to ward off the humanitarian crisis
threatening hundreds of thousands along with the health disaster.
"The country will starve," warned Mary Hawa John-Sao, vice president of Sierra Leone's National Farmers' Federation and an award-winning grower. Her own fields were lying unattended and spoiling in quarantined Kailahun district, which along with neighbouring Kenema in the east and Port Loko and Bombali in the north are the country's traditional food-growing areas.
John-Sao, 55, said 75 percent of those killed by Ebola in Kailahun and Kenema were farmers and hunger was "imminent."