Ghana to serve as UN base for Ebola countries aid -UPDATED

Regular international commercial flights to the affected countries have been suspended, making it difficult for supplies to reach them.

Ghana to serve as UN base for Ebola countries aid -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

The United Nations will use Ghana as a base for supplies bound for countries stricken by an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 1,550 people in West Africa, the Ghanaian presidency said in a statement on Friday.

More than 3,000 people have been infected since the virus was detected in the remote jungles of southeastern Guinea early this year. It quickly spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and Senegal reported its first case on Friday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon had a telephone conversation on Friday evening with Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama, who agreed to let international agencies use Ghana's capital Accra as a base for air lifting supplies and personnel to affected countries, the statement said.

Mahama chairs the West African regional grouping, ECOWAS, which has set up a solidarity fund to fight the deadly disease.

"Using Accra as the logistics and coordination centre would therefore open a vital corridor to get urgently needed supplies and health personnel into the affected countries and areas," the statement said.

Regular international commercial flights to the affected countries have been suspended, making it difficult for supplies to reach them.

The statement said the UN and local authorities would work closely to put in place appropriate screening and prevention measures to avoid any adverse effects on Ghana as a result of the international operations.

The UN will also help review and strengthen Ghana's Ebola preparedness as steps are taken to prevent the virus from spreading to that country, according to the statement.

$70 mln to feed 1.3 mln people

The World Food Programme needs to raise $70 million to feed 1.3 million people at risk from shortages in Ebola-quarantined areas in West Africa, with the agency's resources already stretched by several major humanitarian crises, its regional director said.

WFP's West Africa Director Denise Brown said the organisation was currently providing food for around 150,000 people in Ebola-striken nations but needed to rapidly scale that up as the worst ever epidemic of the virus advanced.

"We need $70 million. That's for 1.3 million people for three months," Brown told Reuters late on Friday. "We've agreed this morning...that we need to extend that because WHO is already talking about 6-9 months before this is contained."

Brown said the WFP would look from donations from major donors like the United States, the European Union, the World Bank and Japan, as well as from non-traditional benefactors such as Arab states.

She warned, however, that the agency's resources were already thinly stretched by major humanitarian crises in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Central African Republic.

"I don't think the world has ever seen so many concurrent crisis on such a huge scale. The humanitarian community is stretched beyond belief," she said.

Brown said WFP started food distribution in Guinea around 4 months ago, and more recently in Liberia and Sierra Leone, mostly delivering food to isolation wards in hospitals before gradually increasing the scope of the mission.

Travel restrictions imposed by neighbouring African countries, notably Senegal - a regional hub for the humanitarian sector - had made it more difficult to get staff and supplies into the affected region, Brown said.

The operation was also made more challenging by precautions to stop the disease spreading and staff becoming infected.

"We don't want to go in and do a distribution for 10,000 people. We want small groups of people, which is going to be very hard for us to manage," Brown said. "Yes, it probably makes us a bit slower but we need to get this right."

The area of Liberia hardest-hit around the northern Lofa county include some of its main food producing regions and the quarantine imposed on this area has raised fears that supplies to the rest of the country will be restricted.

Brown said that prices for rice and cassava at one of the main markets in the capital Monrovia had already risen by around 30 percent and there were reports that farmers had not been able to plant their crops because of contagion fears, suggesting shortages were likely to worsen.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Ağustos 2014, 16:05

Muhammed Öylek

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