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September 22, 2017

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Ebola quarantine in Liberia sparks hunger issues

MONROVIA--Residents of northern Liberia have existed in a state of peril for months as the deadly Ebola epidemic swept through the region. Now they face a new threat as measures to stem the spread of the virus spark fears of starvation.

In an effort to contain an epidemic that has cost nearly 1,000 lives throughout west Africa, the Liberian government quarantined the most affected northern provinces — cutting off access with military roadblocks and restrictions on travel.

The quarantine has meant that traders have been unable to travel to buy food and farmers cannot harvest their crop, which has in turn caused shortages and sent prices soaring.

"People are panicking here. We are afraid to die from hunger," said Siaffa Kamara, from Bopolu, north of the capital Monrovia.

"This is rainy season and it is raining everywhere. The little money I had I used to buy rice, which is very expensive. What I bought is not enough for three weeks. I have 25 people to feed in my house," he told AFP by phone.

"We agree that measures have to be put in place to contain the virus but at the same time we don't have to die from hunger," said Miatta Sharif, also from Bopolu.

"Clinics are closed, if we cannot get food to eat how do we survive? The victims will be more than that of Ebola," she added.

The restrictions came into force on Wednesday when Liberia declared a state of emergency to try and stop the spread of virus. The army has been deployed to restrict movement, particularly from the worst affected provinces to the capital.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf warned that the extraordinary measures were needed "for the very survival of our state."

State of Emergency

Speaking on Thursday, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said residents of virus-hit areas in the north to stay put.

"Stay where you are because if you leave your place for another place you may not be allowed to go back to where you came from," he said.

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