Via ReliefWeb, a report from Famine Early Warning System Network: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone Food Security Alert October 2014. Click through to download the PDF. The summary, with my bolding and then a brief comment:
If the number of Ebola cases continues to rise exponentially over the coming months, FEWS NET anticipates that a major food crisis would occur. Under such a scenario, fears of the disease and official restrictions on movement would severely disrupt market functioning, contribute to significantly below-average household incomes, and lead to food shortages at local markets.
Large populations would face moderate to extreme food consumption gaps, equivalent to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity, by March 2015. Households with family members who have been ill or have died from Ebola, as well as poor households dependent on markets to access food, would face the most severe food security outcomes.
In addition to efforts to reduce the spread of the disease, contingency planning for an expanded emergency food assistance response is urgently needed given that the size of the food insecure population could be two to three times higher than currently planned.
As of October 8th, 8,376 cases of Ebola had been reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The size of the population that will ultimately contract Ebola remains very uncertain. However, modeling by both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization suggest that the number of cases is likely to grow substantially, even with the response to date.
Based on current information, FEWS NET has constructed a scenario using a planning figure of 200,000-250,000 cumulative Ebola cases by mid-January 2015 across the three worst affected countries.
Based on this assumption, FEWS NET would anticipate the following:
• The availability of food on local markets will be severely disrupted, due to increasing trader fears of contracting Ebola, official and unofficial restrictions on population movement, increased trader and importer operating costs, market closures, and the possibility of currency depreciation.
• Reduced incomes will limit household food access, even if it is still available at local markets. Both rural and urban households would experience significant declines in income from most sources (e.g., agricultural labor, petty trade, and the sale of forestry products, bush meat, and crops) due to the effects of a general economic slowdown and major market disruptions.
• Main season rice harvests will be average to below average. In most areas, favorable 2014 rainfall conditions contributed to normal crop growth and development. However, in rural areas worst affected by the outbreak, recent reports indicate that some fields were abandoned and that collective harvesting teams have quit operating. Instead households in these areas are generally harvesting using only family labor. This may lead to slightly below-average harvests in localized areas, particularly those where landholdings are comparatively larger. For households with members who are ill or have died from Ebola, the loss of productive household members will also contribute to below-average harvests.
• Agricultural households will increase consumption of locally produced cassava, delaying the need to source food from local markets. Cassava harvesting occurs year-round and requires less labor for harvesting than other crops.
When a major NGO starts thinking and planning in terms of 200,000-250,000 cases by mid-January, I start to worry.