Why Ebola is a risk to peace as well as health
It’s just over one year since the start of the most
recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Now evidence
is mounting that the crisis may be reversing more
than a decade of peace building and development
progress in the region.
As the Ebola crisis deepens, it increasingly has the potential to become a catalyst for conflict and instability in the region and worldwide. Already vulnerable, affected communities are becoming even more vulnerable as a result of the secondary impacts of the disease. What began as an African public health issue is now threatening international peace and security.
Act for Peace’s partners in the ACT Alliance are working hard to contain the immediate health threat from Ebola. They are also working hard to limit the secondary impacts of the outbreak and help keep fragile social structures functioning.
A crisis for international peace and security
- Margaret Chan, World Health Organisation Director-General
How Ebola is increasing instability and conflict
Food scarcity and rising prices
Farmers are scared to work together because of the risk of transmission.
- The transfer of fertiliser and seeds has ceased due to closed borders.
- Markets have emptied and many jobs involving any kind of physical contact have stopped.
Prices continue to rise:
- Rice 20% higher.
- Palm oil 50% higher in Monrovia.
- Prices for food and non-food items have increased across the region.
IMPACT: Disruption in production, labour markets, trade and transport have serious implications for food security and nutrition for poor and vulnerable groups. Poorer people spend a large proportion – about 50-70% – of their income on food. Rapid increases in the prices of staple foods harm them by reducing their access to food. Food and other shortages cause community tensions, unrest and will force possibly infected people to travel.
- All the countries affected by the current crisis – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – have been plagued by violence and instability in the past.
- Economic instability and food scarcity causes distrust in government and exacerbates societal tensions.
IMPACT: Act for Peace’s Executive Director, Alistair Gee says, “Adding social breakdown to the epidemic would create a disaster perhaps impossible to manage. The Ebola epidemic has exposed citizens’ lack of trust in their governments and the grave potential for deep unrest in these already fragile societies. In all three countries, past civil conflicts could resurface.”
Suspension of health and education services
- Many schools have closed and exam periods have been delayed or cancelled. Students have little or nothing to do while parents struggle to work or find new employment and many reports of vandalism, crime and social conflict are emerging.
- Many hospitals are now failing to cope with other major health problems, which are being deprioritised in the wake of the Ebola outbreak.
IMPACT: Health systems are failing under the pressure from Ebola and other diseases and causing communities to distrust health organisations and the government. The shutdown of education is causing short-term unrest amongst youth and will have negative long-term effects by inhibiting learning if they are unable to attend school for an extended period of time due to the Ebola crisis.
Stopping Ebola and preventing conflict: a three-tiered solution
Through Act for Peace’s partners in the ACT Alliance you are supporting communities right now. In Liberia you are educating communities so they can prevent infection and the spread of Ebola. You are providing psychosocial support to infected and recovering patients in four affected countries and also providing food and other essential items to affected communities and families.
A VOICE FOR ACTION
A unified voice for change can push governments and decision-makers to respond to a crisis like Ebola and help bring about lasting results. Act for Peace has been part of a global voice putting pressure on governments to respond to the Ebola outbreak. We have sent a powerful message that decision-makers can’t ignore: we must act together to beat Ebola!
REBUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
Together we can stop the spread of Ebola. But one of the most important goals is to ensure communities can rebuild once the immediate threat has passed. A long-term strategy is needed to rebuild public health-systems and boost struggling economies to ensure that communities are not left vulnerable to poverty or disorder.
As part of the rebuilding process you are providing Ebola survivors with hope for the future. Your funds have provided start-up kits that include food, household items and hygiene supplies through our local partners. These kits are essential when people return home as all their possessions are destroyed in the decontamination process.
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