As deputy chief of the World Food Program office in Sierra Leone, Naoe Yakiya, 41, helps delivers emergency food to eastern regions of the country that have struggled to contain the Ebola outbreak.
Based in the nation’s capital, Freetown, Yakiya and about 100 other WFP officers deliver crops and other food supplies to school children and pregnant women in the area, where the spread of infections has caused local businesses to shut, resulting in chronic shortages of food.
“I hope our efforts will lead to the future development of this country,” Yakiya said in an interview she gave while visiting Japan in July.
The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people in Sierra Leone and four other West African nations — Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.
“There is strong concern that the virus may spread across Sierra Leone,” she said, adding that she takes every precaution to ensure her colleagues are not infected with the deadly virus.
She added that Sierra Leone is still deeply mired in abject poverty, despite progress with reconstruction and educational projects following the end of the country’s decade-long civil war, which claimed the lives of some 50,000 Sierra Leoneans.
To illustrate the level of poverty, Yakiya recounted a time when she threw away an apple core during a trip to a rural area and saw a small girl rush to pick it up.
Hailing from Hiroshima Prefecture, Yakiya developed an interest in international issues when she was in high school.
After completing a graduate university program, she joined a civic organization providing support in war-torn areas such as Iraq and Kosovo. She entered the WFP in 2001 and served in Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
After working in Japan for four years, she applied for a position in Sierra Leone in 2013, hoping to gain firsthand experience of the situation in West Africa.
Yakiya said she finds her current task truly worth doing