The sky was overcast and the streets almost empty on a mid-November day when the presidential cortege drove into WFP’s compound in Port Loko, about 45 miles east of the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown.
In normal times, a large crowd would have gathered to greet the President. But – so as to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus - crowds no longer gather. Only a few police officers were deployed at the entrance of the compound where WFP staff and labourers were busy setting up a new mobile storage facility.
President Koroma was received by the WFP Representative and local officials, then taken around to see the huge tents erected by WFP to accommodate the influx of humanitarian equipment for the fight against Ebola in Port Loko district. WFP’s district hub has a storage capacity of 1,920 square metres and can accommodate some 4,800 metric tonnes of food and non-food items.
In a meeting held with community leaders, local authorities, civil society and humanitarian actors, President Koroma underlined the importance of concerted efforts at community level to contain the spread of the disease.
“The infection rates and death toll of Ebola in Sierra Leone are unprecedented,” Koroma said. “We should all together do the right things that will bring this disease under control.”
His call echoed an appeal by WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin at the end of her three-day visit to Sierra Leone in early November during which she met President Koroma and top UN and government officials.
“We need more partners in the communities where people are living to address the challenges at the root,” Cousin said. “The time is now. We can’t wait. We need to ensure that everyone joins together today to make the difference that is required to stop the spread of this deadly disease.”
In response to the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone, WFP has provided food assistance to more than 867,600 people with some 7,100 metric tons of assorted commodities. WFP beneficiaries include patients in treatment and holding centres, quarantined families as well as discharged Ebola patients.
WFP leads a food coordination group composed of non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and government representatives to ensure better coordination of food distributions throughout the country.
Besides food, WFP together with the United Nations Mission for the Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) and the Logistics Cluster, is providing crucial transport, procurement, storage and logistics support in both cities and remote areas in support of the entire humanitarian community. In addition to its logistics hub in Port Loko, WFP has established a staging area at Lungi Airport, and four Forward Logistics Bases (FLBs) in Kenema, Makeni, Freetown, and Kailahun.
To ensure continued assistance through April 2015, WFP needs US$ 23.8 million for its operations in support of the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.