Liberia: Lacking Food, People Threaten To Break Quarantine, WHO: Death Toll Three Times More than Previously Announced
October 24, 2014 • 8:33AM

43 people who were quarantined for Ebola monitoring in a Liberian town after four people died of Ebola, had no food and threatened to break out of quarantine to obtain some food, according to a Liberian state radio account, reported by AP on Thursday.

The food crisis developed in the town of Jenewonda, located in a very poor area of Liberia near the border with Sierra Leone. The UN World Food Program began organizing a mission to ship food to the town when it became aware of the problem. The WFP logistics unit reportedly delivered food there yesterday.

If the quarantine, designed to curtail the spread of the Ebola virus, had been broken, the development would have been a further blow to efforts to contain the virus. Liberia is the worst hit of the three West African countries at the epicenter of the out-of-control epidemic. Sierra Leone and Guinea are the other two.

The danger of the potentially negative impact on the containment effort of the food crisis, a problem common throughout the area, as restrictions have contributed to a breakdown in local food production and food marketing, was underscored by a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which reported Wednesday that the number of people who have died so far in what is now the world's worst ever Ebola outbreak, may be three times higher than has been officially announced.

According to the official figures as of Oct. 19, there have been 9,935 cases of infection, and 4,877 deaths from the Ebola virus, in the region. But WHO indicated that the real numbers of cases are suspected to be higher than what has been reported by a factor of 1.5 in Guinea, 2 in Sierra Leone and 2.5 in Liberia, according to a France24 report, and that the mortality rate is likely to be about 70% of all cases. That would total nearly 15,000 deaths. The discrepancy results from the great numbers of victims who die in isolated areas where no health care is available, aggravated by the the great number of victims within range of a health care facility, who were turned away because the facilities had no room for them and returned home to die an undocumented death, while likely infecting members of their families who were caring for them.

443 health care workers have reportedly been infected, 244 of whom have died, further aggravating the difficulty of delivering health care.