Thousands of people in Sierra Leone are being forced to violate Ebola quarantines to find food because deliveries are not reaching them, aid agencies say.

Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid's Sierra Leone representative, said on Tuesday that though agencies were trying to reach communities to deliver food, there were many "nooks and crannies'' in the country that were being missed, leading people to turn to desperate measures to find food.

Kamara said that because services are not reaching them, people who are being monitored for signs of Ebola - and should be staying at home - are venturing out to markets to look for food, potentially contaminating many others.

Christian Aid's coordinator said that with infections still on the rise, it was difficult for the government to keep up with the number of people being monitored for the disease. 

Food is becoming scarce, which has led to prices increasing beyond the reach of ordinary people.

- Disasters Emergency Committee

"The number is just rising exponentially,'' she said. "The speed with which we have to have such a robust system of planning and coordination'' is too fast.

Earlier in the week, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organisation for aid agencies, said that quarantines, designed to control the spread of Ebola, were having a devastating effect on the country's economy.

"The quarantine of Kenema, the third largest town in Sierra Leone, is having a devastating impact on trade - travel is restricted so trucks carrying food cannot freely drive around," the committee said in a statement.

"Food is becoming scarce, which has led to prices increasing beyond the reach of ordinary people." 

Large swaths of the West African country have been sealed off to prevent the spread of Ebola, and within those areas many people have been ordered to stay in their homes.

The government, with help from the UN's World Food Programme, is tasked with delivering food and other services to those people.
 
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 5,000 people and authorities have gone to extreme lengths to bring it under control, taking measures such as quarantines in Sierra Leone.

Authorities said on Tuesday they would keep a state of emergency, which includes restrictions on large gatherings, in place for a full year.
 
Similar measures have also been used in Liberia and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by the epidemic.
 
In October, the WFP fed more than 450,000 people in Sierra Leone, including people who are under quarantine or being treated for Ebola, said Alexis Masciarelli, a spokesman for the agency in Dakar, Senegal.

The distribution of food has been difficult, he said, since it has required bringing food to remote areas where roads are in a poor state. Pick-up trucks have driven around some communities to do door-to-door handouts.

Masciarelli acknowledged that getting good information about where people need help was difficult, but he said the WFP was asking smaller organisations, with deep connections to the communities, to help them keep track of a fast-moving situation.

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Source: Agencies