Learning from the Ebola Crisis

Although vastly different diseases, what can the Ebola crisis teach us when it comes to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially on what they mean for farmers, and the millions of people who rely on them for food?

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2013-2016) was responsible for food system disruptions, reduction of income for households, and overall food insecurity in many of the affected countries.

As governments restricted people's movements, markets were deeply disrupted, and the consequences ranged from higher prices, disruption of markets, less diversity, and, ultimately, less available food. The concerns are similar with the ongoing crisis.

Writing about the Ebola in 2015, the World Economic Forum defended that essential is to find out what farmers need, how the crisis affects them, what challenges they face, and what is necessary to get back on track. Through a series of needs assessment studies, effective emergency interventions were designed, focusing on seeds and fertilizers in time for the April planting season - a similar stage in time as we are now. More information on these interventions can be found here.

A different study, conducted by ACF International, and focused on the Ebola effects in Liberia, also assessed the outbreak's impacts on food security, and drafted a series of recommendations ranging from fast cash injections to maintain purchasing power, and urged for increased support for agriculture extension as a means to mitigate the possibility of food shortage, among others. The complete list of recommendations is available in this report.

This study conducted at the time in Sierra Leone, also highlighted the accentuated decrease in food affordability and financing, food availability, storage and protection, processing and preservation, marketing, and food accessibility, and hints at similar problems that are already starting to take place as a consequence of COVID-19.

Shared lessons between the previous Ebola epidemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic is a key aspect in better preparing and responding to the existing challenges, protecting farmers, consumers, and the food value chains.