FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — The U.N.'s World Food Program on Saturday delivered emergency food rations to 265,000 people, many of them quarantined in Sierra Leone, to help fight the spread of Ebola.
Food supplies are being distributed in the Waterloo district on the outskirts of Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, WFP's Alexis Masciarelli told the Associated Press.
Waterloo, about 20 miles east of Freetown, has seen some of the highest cases of Ebola infections and the deliveries are to help quarantined families by providing them enough to eat so they do not leave their homes to look for food. The deliveries began Friday and are continuing Saturday, said Masciarelli.
Waterloo resident Christopher James said he got food for his family at one of the 60 distribution sites.
"Ever since the Ebola outbreak in our area, our kids were not having proper meals in a day," said James. "We've have food constraints for the past two months and this will help us to continue to live through this Ebola crisis in our country."
In Ghana, the director of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan cancelled a scheduled press conference Saturday. Chan and WHO have come under scrutiny following an internal document obtained by The Associated Press which said the health organization did not respond adequately to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Chan was scheduled to attend a meeting in Ghana of the U.N. Mission on Ebola Emergency Response, which was expected to end Saturday.
More countries have banned travelers from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where the dreaded, fatal disease is believed to have claimed more than 4,500 lives.
Cape Verde, an island nation, on Oct. 9 announced that it would deny entry to non-resident foreigners coming from those three countries or who have been to those countries in the previous 30 days, the International SOS website reported. Mauritius on Oct. 8 banned entry to all travelers who have visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Congo in the last two months.
Seychelles on Oct. 8 suspended entry to travelers who have visited Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria or Congo (DRC) 28 days prior to their journey, with the exception of Seychellois citizens, International SOS, a medical and travel security services company, reported.
For the food distribution in Sierra Leone, WFP mobilized 700 aid workers to hand out more than 800 metric tons of food — rice and super cereal — to meet families' food needs for 30 days. The distribution is in partnership with Caritas, Community Integrated Development Organization, civil society organizations and young volunteers.
"Our team is out in Waterloo to distribute food," said WFP's Masciarelli. "We started on Friday and are continuing Saturday. It is a huge exercise."
The aim of the distribution is to stabilize quarantined families by giving them enough to eat so that they do not leave their homes to look for food.
The food deliveries in the Waterloo area are going to "all Ebola-affected people - be it in treatment centers or in quarantined households - to prevent this health crisis from becoming a food and nutrition crisis," said Gon Myers, WFP Country Director in Sierra Leone.
"We have to deploy many staff, split people into smaller groups and speed up the distribution process to reduce risks both for the people receiving food and for staff, as Waterloo has seen some of the highest cases of Ebola infections in recent days," Myers said.
A ship containing 7,000 tons of rice is expected to dock at Freetown on Sunday, said Masciarelli. "About two-thirds of the rice will be unloaded in Freetown to be delivered to people in Sierra Leone. The ship will then deliver the remaining rice to Liberia."
A ship carrying British troops is also headed to Sierra Leone to battle the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola in history.
Meldrum reported from Johannesburg.