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Christian Aid warns that hunger threatens to undermine Ebola quarantine measures

Date: 22 October 2014
Churches across the diocese are being urged to pray for those affected by Ebola as charity Christian Aid warns that hunger is threatening to undermine quarantine measures in Sierra Leone.

The international aid and development charity says that unless the issue of food insecurity for over a million people in quarantine in Sierra Leone is addressed, the risk of hunger within Ebola-hit communities puts the response to the disease under threat.

With hospitals and treatment centres overstretched, effective but humane quarantine measures are key to halting the spread of the virus, says Nigeria-based Christian Aid Humanitarian Programmes Manager, Adrian Ouvry.But he warns that people's basic needs must be addressed.

He said: “Households, neighbourhoods and even entire districts have been isolated in Sierra Leone.

“To break the chain of transmission, you have to limit people’s movements, but it is counter-productive to restrict their movement without addressing their basic needs. Endemic poverty, increased food prices and limited support to affected communities are forcing people to leave quarantined homes to fend for their families – increasing the chances of transmitting the virus to others.

“If you are a parent with hungry children, then you have no choice but to think about your day-to-day survival, and in order to survive, families in Sierra Leone are having to break quarantine in order to earn money and buy food. We do not want a situation where a parent is faced with only two options: the risk of exposing themselves, and potentially others, to the virus, or the risk of seeing their children go hungry.

“Governments and aid agencies must recognise that quarantine will only be effective if those who are isolated are guaranteed a sufficient and constant supply of nutritious food and clean water. Otherwise, the issue of hunger and food security will undermine the success of quarantine measures.”

The World Food Programme has begun providing emergency food assistance to over a million people across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The rations include a month’s worth of rice, pulses, vegetable oil and salt for families, but Christian Aid says much more is needed.

Markets are still 'crowded and busy'

Christian Aid’s senior programme officer for community health and former nurse, Theresa Bagrey, who is based in Freetown, said: “Many people here in Freetown still need to go out every day to find their daily bread. Markets are still crowded and busy, as people move about and try desperately to buy, sell and scrape together a living.

"Meanwhile, the rations given to quarantined homes do not appear to be enough and nutritional value is a problem. These issues must be addressed.”

Christian Aid has been working in Sierra Leone for over 25 years, delivering development programmes through local partners to tackle issues such as gender-based violence and HIV.

The organisation has mobilised existing networks, including 9,000 volunteers across nine districts, to respond to the Ebola crisis, focusing on carrying out health education in local communities to raise awareness of preventative measures.

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