With Ebola now confirmed in Senegal and many hundreds dying across the region, the virus has brutally exposed the various weaknesses of West African health systems, including their underfunding.
Mining and farming families affected in particular
It is the poorest who are most affected and whose lives are being shattered, particularly in quarantined areas; men are unable to leave quarantined areas to get to their jobs in the mining industry and neither can families reliant on subsistence farming go to their fields.
In Liberia, farming is the main source of income for seven in ten of the population and restrictions to movement and quarantines imposed by the government are already having a severe impact on agricultural outputs.
Spectre of widespread hunger looming
With many people now unable to earn a living, trade or go to market, ActionAid workers are reporting that as well as battling Ebola, the spectre of widespread hunger is looming.
Yet the food aid we and others are delivering to families in quarantine – rice, beans and oil – can only ever be a stopgap measure.
Poorly equipped fragile economies
These are already fragile economies, poorly equipped to deal with an economic blow on this scale. The immediate calamity of people dying of Ebola has masked a silent but growing crisis that may claim even more victims.
Further reading on Ebola: