By World Food Program (WFP)

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- As of today, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food assistance to more than 430,000 people affected by the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In support of a unified response under the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), WFP is ramping up services to the whole humanitarian effort.

“This is human suffering at its most complicated. I said to our health partners, 'Tell us what more we can do, how we can do better to help you.' At WFP, we are shifting our gears to keep up with this huge challenge. We're delivering food, logistic support, planes, helicopters, ships and building treatment centres,” said Denise Brown, WFP's Regional Director for West Africa.

WFP's response to the Ebola outbreak includes:

• WFP's food assistance is provided to patients in Ebola treatment centres, survivors of Ebola discharged from treatment centres and communities with widespread and intense transmission – including the families of people infected with Ebola who are in treatment, deceased, or recovering. This helps to stabilize affected communities by enabling them to limit unnecessary movement.

• Food distributions are ongoing in all three countries, in both urban and rural areas, often house-to-house, one family at a time -- and more food is on the way. WFP has contracted a ship that is currently in Cotonou, Benin, loading 7,000 metric tons of rice to be transported to Monrovia and Freetown.

• The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), managed by WFP, has opened a new air corridor between Dakar, Accra, Freetown, Monrovia and Conakry to facilitate the rapid deployment of humanitarian staff to the field. UNHAS was already operating between the affected countries and has transported 497 passengers and 6.6 metric tons of light cargo for 25 organizations (NGO, UN, donors, government partners and media), using two fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter.

• WFP is providing unprecedented logistics support to help medical services to treat and prevent the spread of the virus. In Liberia's capital Monrovia, WFP field engineers are setting up four Ebola Treatment Units with a capacity of 400 beds.

• WFP is helping to quantify the impact of the health crisis on household food security through an innovative technique called “mVAM,” using mobile phones for surveys that are normally done in person. In Sierra Leone, data collection via SMS has been completed for a sample of 800 households. In Guinea and Liberia, WFP is preparing data collection through interactive voice response.

• The UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD), managed by WFP, continues to support the response efforts of the World Health Organization, WFP, Irish Aid and Japan International Cooperation Agency. UNHRD depots in Dubai (UAE), Accra (Ghana), and Las Palmas (Spain) have so far dispatched 224 metric tons, worth US$ 1.9 million, of protective gear, emergency health kits and equipment to the region. Weekly dispatches are ongoing.