Forest Fragmentation Increases Ebola Risk

By Antoinette Sendolo

A recent research done by the Environmental Foundation for Africa and the ERM Foundation shows that forest fragmentation increases the risk of animal to human transmission of the Ebola virus and other diseases.

According to the report, continuous crumbling of forest in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone contributed immensely to the spread of the virus from animals to humans in the region on grounds that when the forest are crumbled, there are 75% chance of animals and humans interaction.

Environmental Foundation for Africa and the ERM Foundation investigated seven outbreaks where the Ebola virus was transmitted from its wild reservoir, suspected to be bats, to humans. Its analyses stated that the forest-cover conditions at the time of the outbreaks and in three cases, changed in the landscape in the thirty years leading up to the outbreak.

Speaking at the launch of the report named” Ebola Virus Disease and Forest Fragmentation in Africa, ERM Foundation Global Manager, Shona King, said it was established that most of the communities that were hardly hit by the virus are communities that have experienced forest fragmentation.

Shona King said forest fragmentation exposes people to the Ebola virus and other diseases something she said is an issue that needs serious attention in order to keep citizens safe from contacting the Ebola virus from forest animals.

Also speaking was Tommy Garnett , Director of Environmental Foundation for Africa, he noted that in order to carry out development in an area, the environment must be taken into consideration.

He stressed that there is a need for every agency to have a strong environmental protection component to ensure that the lives of citizens are not endangered whenever a development is being done.

“If there was a strong environmental protection component at most of the ministries, most of the factories would not have been where they are situated because some of the chemicals they use, affect the health of the people,” Garnett said.

The Ebola Virus Disease and Forest Fragmentation report recommends that natural resource management and environment should be integrated as core elements and evaluation criteria of recovery programs; not as box-ticking impact-assessment exercises.

The report also recommends that the interdisciplinary expert group should advise policy-makers how to apply a precautionary approach to economic recovery plans to reduce the risk of future outbreak.

This process was done by the ERM Foundation in collaboration with the Environmental Foundation for Africa with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).