Via Reuters: Food crisis looms as Ebola rampages through West Africa. Excerpt:
The mango season finished early for Mamadou Barry, a fruit vendor in Marche Kermel, an old covered market in the Senegalese capital Dakar. Where stalls once brimmed with tropical produce imported from neighbouring Guinea, the Ebola-related border closure has emptied the tables.
Barry, of Guinean origin like many storekeepers in Senegal, has been going back and forth between the two countries for three years. He says the government's positive aim of keeping Senegal Ebola-free has had a negative impact on his livelihood.
"With the shortage of fruit coming in our income has decreased. Some people manage to sneak across the border and get back without being caught, but most of us don't take that risk so we can't provide for our families," said Barry, 55, as he closed down his stall for the day.
Much of the produce in Kermel makes its way via the southern towns of Diaoube and Kedougou, which act as important commercial hubs, linking traders from Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and the Gambia.
However, Senegal and a handful of West African nations have closed their borders with the Ebola-stricken countries in order to control the importation of the deadly virus, which has killed more than 3,000 people since March, about half of those it infects.
Experts say border closures, enforced by the Senegalese government contrary to advice given by the World Health Organization, could have a serious impact on regional trade and disproportionately affect the poor during a record year for hunger in the region.
A recent anecdotal survey by the Word Food Programme (WFP) showed current trade volumes in these markets were 50 percent below the levels at the same time last year, a direct result of the August border closure, the second this year.
At the weekly market in Diaoube, only half the stalls were set up on Wednesday, the official market day. Only 10 to 20 large trucks are supplying Diaoube now, compared with 100 on an average market day last year, the survey report said.
As a result palm oil, garri (local flour), fruit and coffee from Guinea are in short supply. The price of palm oil, an important food item for many poor households in the region that is traded in large quantities, has increased 40 percent in four weeks, the report said.