USDA’s Ebola virus concern is food aid |

USDA’s Ebola virus concern is food aid

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that the Agriculture Department’s main concern about the Ebola crisis is USDA’s ability to feed people in Africa through food assistance programs.

Asked today if he had been at a Cabinet meeting last week on the Ebola crisis, Vilsack said he was traveling at that time but that USDA’s role is “supportive.”

But Vilsack noted that some schools using the McGovern-Dole school feeding program had been shut down and closed.

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Program announced that it has been providing food to patients and that, with World Bank funding to the government of Sierra Leone, WFP has airlifted 20 ambulances and 10 mortuary pickup trucks to increase the response to Ebola.

WFP said these 30 vehicles are the first of 74 worth a total of $4 million to be delivered to Freetown from its logistical hub in Dubai. The remaining 44 vehicles are expected to be delivered by sea.

WFP said that as of Monday, it has reached more than 300,000 Ebola-affected people in Sierra Leone with 4,000 metric tons of food. These include patients in treatment centers, survivors, quarantined families and communities.

The World Bank partnership between government and the U.N. agencies is part of efforts to stop the rapid spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone. It seeks to improve the country’s operational response and mitigate the economic impact on affected communities.

“We have been hearing alarming stories of Ebola patients going helpless for days in their homes and villages due to logistical constraints. I hope these ambulances will contribute to alleviating the suffering of many families and curbing the spread of the disease,” said Gon Myers, WFP country director, speaking at a ceremony in Freetown today.

“At WFP, providing logistical services for government and humanitarian partners is one of our key priorities in response to this unprecedented health crisis.”

To ensure continued assistance over the next six months, WFP said it will need an additional $24 million for its Ebola emergency operation in Sierra Leone, the agency said in a news release.

–The Hagstrom Report

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