Thousands Break Ebola Quarantine to Find Food

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden (L) and Ebola coordinator Ron Klain attend a meeting with President Barack Obama and members of his national security and public health teams to receive an update on the Ebola response, Tuesday, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden (L) and Ebola coordinator Ron Klain attend a meeting with President Barack Obama and members of his national security and public health teams to receive an update on the Ebola response, Tuesday, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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

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 U.N.’s World Food Program, is tasked with delivering food and other services to those people. But there are many “nooks and crannies” in the country that are being missed, Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid’s Sierra Leone representative, said Tuesday.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 5,000 people and authorities have gone to extreme lengths to bring it under control, like the quarantines in Sierra Leone. The country said Tuesday that it would keep a state of emergency, which includes restrictions on large gatherings, in place for a full year.

Restrictions on movement and gatherings have also been used in Liberia and Guinea, the two other countries hardest hit by the epidemic.

While public health authorities have said such measures may be necessary to bring under control an Ebola outbreak unlike any other, the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization for aid organizations, warned on Monday that they were cutting off food to thousands of people.

In October, the World Food Program 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 by poor roads. Pick-up trucks have driven around some communities to do door-to-door handouts.