Liberia (MNN) — The Ebola epidemic is raising serious concerns about food security in Liberia. Mark Gaither with Global Aid Network (GAiN) explains, “It has caused a panic. People are avoiding contact with aid workers and with people who are running the clinics. The U.N. is reporting that the disruption is going to cause the economy to go through a real struggle over the next several months because of the Ebola outbreak.”
International aid workers warned that more help was needed as the country battles not only the virulent disease, but also hunger as travel restrictions have blocked food from getting to parts of the seaside capital. High demand and low supply means that food prices have skyrocketed.
The United Nations has said 1.3 million people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will need help feeding themselves in coming months. Gaither says that matches the reports they’re getting from their partners. “What we’re being told is that food security is going to be an issue because food production is disrupted.”
The problem isn’t just that supplies are cut off. Ebola has also spread in the farming regions. A good rain this year means the corn and rice harvest will be affected as quarantines prevent laborers from accessing farms. GAiN is trying to meet that potential disaster, too. “In preparing a container full of medical supplies and aid for treating Ebola patients, we’ve also loaded non-GMO seeds and heirloom seeds so that they can be planted and harvested for the next season of seeds, and drip irrigation and irrigation equipment.”
Seeds don’t help those who can’t get food today. Gaither explains, “Food packets are also on board. We partner with Feed My Starving Children. One of the products that they have is a potato-based meal full of nutrients that is specifically designed for convalescing patients.” The container arrived in Liberia September 17, says Gaither. “It is in the clearing process now. Whenever we send a shipment to some far away port, we are always hoping for the best, but it can be a lengthy process.”
Next, the materials have to be transported in-country safely. A network is already established for that, notes Gaither. “Most of the time, we are working with people in country that we know and have established relationships with, and THEY are in contact with the community.”
Working with church partners opens a lot of other doors down the road. “As they are distributing the aid, they are using this aid in the context of relationship that already exists or one that they are initiating and want to continue.” Within the context of that relationship, Gaither says, “As we are obeying Christ’s commands to feed the hungry and care for the sick, if you are prepared to explain the hope that is within you, then you will have wonderful opportunities to explain what you’re doing.”
Gaither says people who receive aid often ask, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you risking your life to help me?” GAiN’s response is, “I’m doing this because I work for a Great Physician, and His name is Jesus. He has told me to bring you this aid.”