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World Food Programme boosts operations to Ebola-hit W.Africa

AFP | Last Updated: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 01:29
Health workers at an Ebola treatment center.

Dakar: The World Food Programme is planning to boost its emergency aid in the west of Africa, saying the region faces a "tsunami" of need caused by the Ebola outbreak.

"We know how to do conflict, we know how to do earthquakes and we know how to do tsunamis. This is like a tsunami that is already at its peak," said Denise Brown, the WFP`s regional director for west Africa.

Speaking in Dakar after returning from Liberia and Sierra Leone -- the countries most seriously affected by the outbreak -- she said there was a "need to scale up" to ensure that air access, materials, body bags, and food were reaching those most in need.

"What we saw when we were there is that the health structures are massively overwhelmed."

She said the WFP has "never responded in this scale to this kind of crisis" before, with the added complication that many areas -- such as the vast West Point slum in Liberia`s capital Monrovia -- are quarantined, cutting off access to food.

The latest WHO death toll, released on Thursday, showed there had been another rise in new cases and fatalities, with more than 1,500 people now believed to have died in west Africa`s worst ever outbreak of the virus.

The figures say that 3,062 people have caught this deadly form of haemorrhagic fever to date, and the WHO warned the number of cases could exceed 20,000 before the outbreak is stemmed.

Brown said the organisation already has one aircraft helping in the region but that a larger, faster plane, and several helicopters are currently being prepared for deployment.

The WFP has 50 additional specialised staff, including air and logistics experts, it hopes will soon be working in the region, and a $28 million (21 million euros) air reserve it can use until the end of the year.

She suggested the closure of borders and flight bans were having an impact on the area, and said that food prices had risen by 30 percent in Liberia and Sierra Leone according to a provisional analysis.

First Published: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 01:28
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