Fight Ebola, Increase Hunger

by Dish Staff

A couple weeks ago, Laurie Garrett advocated for a stronger response to the outbreak. Yesterday, Adia Benton and Kim Yi Dionne called out Garrett for fear-mongering:

In her recommendations, Garrett often draws on her experience reporting on the Ebola epidemic in 1995 in Zaire (the work that won her a Pulitzer Prize). During this outbreak, Zaire’s ruler, the notorious Mobutu Sese Seko, isolated Kikwit, the affected region, with military force to keep people from leaving the city of 400,000 people. Honestly: Is Mobutu’s a model of health governance we want to repeat? Under his militarized quarantine, prices of food escalated, and people were deprived of common household goods. There is growing evidence that this is happening in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Indeed, it appears that steps intended “to prevent the disease’s spread have hampered both food production and caused prices to soar”:

The Ebola outbreak is causing food harvests to dwindle in West Africa, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday. After infecting and killing more than 1,550 people across five countries, the disease has also put food supply “at serious risk,” with the F.A.O. issuing a special alert for Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the three countries most heavily affected by the outbreak.

Elizabeth Barber has more details:

“Even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the most affected areas were spending up to 80% of their incomes on food,” Vincent Martin, head of an FAO unit in Dakar, Senegal, said in a statement. “Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach.”