By Stella Dawson
WASHINGTON, Aug 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up emergency food deliveries to the West African region battling an Ebola outbreak and delivering supplies by truck, a WFP official said on Friday.
The death toll from the worst ever outbreak of Ebola has risen to 1,145, the World Health Organization said on Friday. Most deaths have been recorded in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, while four people have died in Nigeria.
Hunger is spreading in the region where roadblocks have cordoned off many areas to halt the spread of the deadly virus.
WFP has declared Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone a Level Three food emergency, its highest threat.
"Food already has been delivered on a small scale. We are scaling it up. We have food in stock in the countries, and we have warehouses in the region," Fabienne Pompey, a WFP spokeswoman in West Africa, said by telephone.
The World Bank said on Thursday that international agencies were looking into emergency air drops of food and truck convoys to reach extremely hungry people in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
But WFP said that air drops of food, which are very expensive and logistically complicated to organise, would not be necessary in a region accessible by road.
WFP expects to have developed within a week an emergency plan to transport far greater quantities of food into Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by truck - especially in the cordoned off areas, Pompey said.
"They are short of food, and they may be hungry and lacking a balanced diet and we don't want them to buy bushmeat," she said.
WFP has sent about eight technical experts to West Africa to conduct an emergency assessment of food needs, Pompey said.
"In a few days, we will have developed a plan, know the costs and then can raise money," she added.
The Ebola virus may have been transmitted to humans by eating infected meat from wild animals. Aid officials are concerned that if people go hungry, they will resort once more to "bushmeat" animals - a regional delicacy.
Food not already stocked in the region will be bought locally wherever possible and transported via trucks to the needy communities, Pompey said.
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