Legatum, an investment organisation and think tank based in Dubai International Financial Centre, announced a donation of $150,000 to the Ebola Crisis Fund, a fund established by Capital for Good to help prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus ahead of West Africa’s main harvest.

In cooperation with Geneva Global, the Ebola Crisis Fund is seeking to raise $1m over the next three months, fast-tracking donations to vetted organizations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria that provide protective gear and operate mass awareness programmes.

“Given the demographics, lack of local awareness and paucity of basic medical supplies, Ebola contagion remains a significant threat to West Africa,” said Alan McCormick, MD of Legatum.

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“But just a modest amount of funding can reduce this threat significantly by providing hygiene equipment and communications materials to increase awareness about the disease.”

The New Field Foundation, which has been active with women’s community organizations in West Africa since 2006, has also committed $19,000 to the fund, according the executive director, Sarah Hobson, who added that grass-roots organisations have the ability to reach tens of thousands of people by radio using familiar and culturally sensitive language.

McCormick and Hobson both assert that The Ebola Crisis Fund is a practical way for private donors, large and small, to make a difference to thousands of people and an important step in helping raise the $430m which the WHO claims is needed to halt the spread of Ebola.

Harvest hazard

Reversing the climate of misinformation and fear is a crucial first step to both slowing the spread of the disease and preventing food shortages from taking hold, “as traders are prevented or unwilling to travel to the affected areas,” noted Hobson.

Food prices are already soaring in West Africa, but it will only get worse over the coming months if the epidemic is allowed to put the fast-approaching main harvests of rice and maize at risk, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

“Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbours,” said Bukar Tijani, the FAO regional representative for Africa.

“Even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the most affected areas were spending up to 80% of their incomes on food,” added Vincent Martin, the FAO head in Dakar.  “Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach.”

The production of cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber is also expected to be seriously affected, throwing people further into poverty.  Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone rely heavily on imports for cereals and other commodities.

The UN World Food Programme and FAO have already approved an emergency programme to deliver 65,000 tonnes of food to 1.3 million of the people affected by Ebola.

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