FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, October 17, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Amid concerns over the increasing rate of Ebola infection in Sierra Leone, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and partners today began distributing food for 265,000 people on the outskirts of the capital.
The distribution in the suburb of Waterloo will be the biggest one-off food distribution in the country since the start of the Ebola outbreak.
WFP mobilized 700 aid workers to distribute in just one day over 800 metric tons of food – rice, pulses, vegetable oil and salt – meeting families’ food needs for 30 days. The distribution is in partnership with Caritas, Community Integrated Development Organization, civil society organizations and young volunteers.
“Providing food to such a large number of people in one day is a challenge. We have to deploy many staff and speed up the distribution process to reduce risks both for the people receiving food and for staff, as Waterloo has seen some of the highest cases of Ebola infections in recent days,” said Gon Myers, WFP Country Director in Sierra Leone.
“We are working closely with the Sierra Leone Government, NGOs and UN agencies to ensure timely delivery of food assistance to all Ebola-affected people – be it in treatment centres or in quarantined households – to prevent this health crisis from becoming a food and nutrition crisis.”
The aim of the distribution is to stabilize quarantined families by giving them enough to eat so that they do not leave their homes to look for food.
Before today’s distribution in Waterloo, WFP and its partners had provided food assistance to more than 300,000 Ebola-affected people across Sierra Leone. Given the increasing rate of infections, WFP is scaling up to reach 600,000 people affected by the crisis.
Beyond the food response, WFP is supplying vital technical assistance, particularly to medical partners, in this unprecedented health emergency. This includes construction, logistics, storage, procurement and transport.
WFP is supporting the Sierra Leone Government by procuring 74 World Bank-funded vehicles including ambulances, mortuary vehicles and pickup trucks. The first batch of 30 vehicles is expected to arrive by air in the country on 18 October.
As WFP ramps up to help fight the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times, it requires US$179.6 million to distribute food and provide common humanitarian services in the Ebola-affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea until February 2015. Less than a third has been received.
To ensure continued assistance over the next six months, WFP requires US$24 million for its Ebola emergency operation in Sierra Leone.