- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Des Moines man is leading an effort to gather food to be shipped to Liberia, one of the West African nations struggling to deal with Ebola.

Walter Gwenigale Jr., who’s lived in Des Moines for the past seven years, visited family in Liberia this summer. He saw that the deadly disease was not only taking a toll on Liberia’s population but also on the nation’s food supplies. More than 2,300 people in Liberia have died from Ebola. His father serves as the minister of health and social welfare in Liberia and is working on fighting the spread of the deadly disease.

“It’s sad because Liberia was just beginning to recover from a 14-year civil conflict. To see us back in a critical situation where lives are being lost isn’t welcoming,” he said Tuesday in Des Moines. “But to know I live in a community where people want to help, want to give, that’s important.”

According to the World Bank, labor shortages in some west African countries are limiting food production and fear of the disease abroad is hampering trade.

Hospitals usually rely on family members to bring food to patients in most western African nations, because the facilities aren’t equipped to feed large amounts of people, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1r9NPea ). Getting food to Ebola patients has proved to be a challenge since they are required to be quarantined.

“It’s one thing to die from Ebola,” Gwenigale Jr. said. “It’s another to die from hunger.”

Once Gwenigale arrived back on U.S. soil, he contacted a nonprofit agency about sending food shipments to Liberia. On Tuesday, Outreach Inc. sent a second shipment of 300,000 meals to Liberia. It sent 300,000 meals in September to the country.

Gwenigale’s parents attended medical school in the U.S. but returned to Liberia in 1972 to serve as Christian health care workers. A civil war broke out in the country in 1990 and the family returned to America when Gwenigale was 18.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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