Around 22 million people are estimated to live in the three countries most affected by the Ebola epidemic, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of 3-4 November, the estimated cumulative number of confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases reported by WHO in the three most affected countries is 13,241 including 4,950 deaths. However, the numbers of registered cases and deaths seem to underestimate the real magnitude of the outbreak.

If not addressed in the coming weeks, the consequences of the outbreak will lead to long-lasting impacts on farmers’ food livelihoods and household economies, resulting in a major food security crisis by March 2015. The most affected areas within each country are also the most agriculturally productive. Reduced food trade and rising prices, as well as expected reductions in domestic harvests, are all undermining a fragile food security situation.

Control measures implemented to contain the outbreak, such as border closures, quarantine, movement restrictions, curfews, have curtailed the movement and availability of food, goods, and services in the region, leading to panic buying, food shortages and increased basic food and commodity prices. Higher food prices and the loss of purchasing power mean an increasing number of vulnerable households are resorting to negative coping strategies in order to access food.

Food insecurity and lack of access to markets have been increasing community tensions. Lack of food in quarantined areas has led to violence.

A multidimensional and multi-sector approach is required to contain the outbreak and stabilise affected areas while safeguarding against a long-term food security crisis.