.- The continuing spread of the Ebola outbreak in Africa is putting more lives at risk, while containment efforts and the flight of vital workers have endangered food supplies and medical care even for those without the disease.
“What we are seeing today in contrast to previous Ebola outbreaks (are) multiple hotspots within these countries, not a single remote forested area, the kind of environments in which it has been tackled in the past,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO Assistant Director-General for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration, told a news conference in Geneva Aug. 28.
More than 1,552 people have died and at least 3,069 people have been infected, according to U.N. figures. The outbreak is the largest ever recorded, with a fatality rate ranging from 42 to 66 percent.
The outbreak response includes efforts at providing food.
The United Nations’ World Food Program aims to feed 1.3 million people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The efforts plan to feed those being treated for Ebola, their relatives, and those who have been medically quarantined in an attempt to halt the spread of the disease.
Hundreds of families have lost one or more of their members, frequently one of their main income providers.
Farmers have abandoned their crops and livestock to avoid the epidemic, while authorities have also tried to ban bush meat on the grounds that bats and apes are potential carriers of the virus.
Travel restrictions have also affected the food trade, causing an increase in food prices.
Michael Stulman of Catholic Relief Services told USA Today that the rice harvest will be “seriously compromised” due to the emergency measures restricting movement.
The travel restrictions are also restricting the movement of emergency responders and emergency supplies, he added.
The outbreak is also aggravating social tensions. On Thursday riots took place in Guinea’s remote southeastern city of Nzerekore due to rumors that health workers had infected people with Ebola, Reuters reports.
The outbreak began last year in Guinea. It has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Senegal. On Aug. 29 Senegal health authorities reported the country’s first confirmed case of Ebola, which was discovered in a young man from Guinea, the Associated Press reports.
Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, and Mali may also face Ebola cases, the World Health Organization has said. A separate outbreak of Ebola infection has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, stressed the need for an urgent global response.
“Unfortunately, we are definitely not at the peak. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he told National Public Radio from Liberia on Aug. 25. “The real question is how much worse will it get? How many more people will be infected and how much more risk to the world will there be?”
Many people who need medical care for other reasons are staying away from medical centers, further endangering their health. Hospitals in Liberia are only at 10 percent occupancy, Frieden reported.
Catholic Relief Services has allocated another $376,444 to support Ebola prevention, preparedness and management activities in the affected countries, the agency announced Aug. 18. The funding will train and support community volunteers and religious leaders, support radio programs and household visits, and help provide hygiene kits.