The Ebola outbreak is causing food harvests to dwindle in West Africa, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said Tuesday.
After infecting and killing more than 1,550 people across five countries, the disease has also put food supply "at serious risk," with the F.A.O. issuing a special alert for Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the three countries most heavily affected by the outbreak.
Measures designed to prevent the disease's spread have hampered both food production and caused prices to soar, the F.A.O. added. Because farms won't have enough labor, rice and maize production in particular will see lower numbers this upcoming season. Palm oil, cocoa, and rubber will also be affected, according to the F.A.O.
Meanwhile, quarantines have rerouted supplies away from some communities, which in turn have caused people to rush to food stores, increasing prices. Currency depreciation in Sierra Leone and Liberia will likely drive prices even higher in the coming months.
"Even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the affected areas were spending up to 80% of their incomes on food," Vincent Martin, head of the F.A.O.'s Dakar-based Resilience Hub, said in a statement. "Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach."
As a short-term solution, the F.A.O. has approved an emergency program with the U.N.'s World Food Programme to deliver 65,000 tons of food to 1.3 million people over three months.