UNITED NATIONS, Oct 22 2014 (IPS) - The widespread outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, which has resulted in over 4,500 deaths so far, is also threatening to trigger a food crisis in the three countries already plagued by poverty and hunger. Dr. Shenggen Fen, director-general of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), told IPS the crisis is expected to be confined mostly to the countries directly affected by the spreading disease: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Asked whether the food shortages will also reach countries outside West Africa, he said Ebola is triggering a food crisis through a series of interrelated factors, including farmer deaths, labour shortages, rising transportation costs, and rising food prices. “Within these countries, where undernourishment has long been a problem, the food crisis may persist for decades,” he warned. And because Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia are all net food-importing countries, the Ebola-triggered food crisis is unlikely to spread to other countries in the region or beyond, Dr. Fan added. Global food prices tend to have transmission effects on regional or national food prices, but for small markets (on a global scale) such as these three countries, the transmission effect of food prices is unlikely to pass beyond their own boundaries – so long as the disease itself is not transmitted, he said.