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Liberia: Farmers worry over Ebola outbreak (by Prince Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly)

On March 24, 2014, the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported the discovery of Ebola disease in the northern Liberian town of Foya, in Lofa County. The Ministry stated that five people have died as a result of infection by the Ebola virus. One child is currently undergoing treatment.

The outbreak is scaring farmers in Lofa County, considered Liberia’s breadbasket. Some say the outbreak will force them to relocate their families. Samuel Brown is a 46-year-old farmer and father of six children in Lofa County. He says, “I am very scared right now. My farm is close to the town bordering Liberia and Guinea.”

Relocating the family would put the harvest in doubt. Mr. Brown says that abandoning his farm means, “The birds will eat the maize on the farm and I will lose everything.”

Medical researchers have not found a cure for Ebola disease. Dr. Bernice Dahn is Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer. While announcing the outbreak, she reported that the Ebola virus had been transmitted from neighbouring Guinea, where it had killed more than fifty people.

She continues: “The disease is reported to be spreading along the border with Liberia, specifically in the communities and towns close to [the] Guinea[n] towns of Guekedou, Nzerekore, Kissidougou and Macenta.”

Dr. Dahn said the authorities are investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and educating local health authorities on the disease.

A national task force on health emergencies has been reactivated to coordinate the investigation, and to mobilize resources and expertise to prevent further spread of the disease.

Lorpu Phocole is a single mother who grows pineapples in Lofa County. The 48-year-old says, “I have no option but to go. My life comes first. When I live, I will still grow another pineapple farm, but for now I will relocate my family.”

Ms. Phocole faces serious losses if she moves. She has spent a lot of money to keep the farm up and running.

Jeremiah Cole runs the Farmers’ Network in Lofa County. He says it is disturbing to hear that some farmers are relocating because of the outbreak. He continues: “Most of our farmers have just started planting their crops for this farming season. They will have a huge loss. I hope the government can work speedily to curb the situation. This is a serious nightmare.”

Dr. Walter Gwenigale is Liberia’s Health Minister. He reports that Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is aware of the outbreak, adding that the government is allocating funds to tackle the virus. The Health Minister urged Liberians, especially market traders and farmers, to restrict their movements to avoid areas affected by Ebola.

For more information on the West African Ebola outbreak, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/99840/curbing-west-africa-s-ebola-outbreak [1]