It seems the fear surrounding Ebola has died down, at least by those not directly affected. Though Ebola may no longer be dominating the headlines, many are still facing the harsh reality of such a brutal virus. The persons who have been most affected by the Ebola outbreak often go unnoticed, and are trivialized in day-to-day conversations. These persons are children, Ebola orphans, those left behind after their families have been taken. Recently, though, the voices of these Ebola orphans have begun to be heard.
The New York Times reported about a young girl — age unconfirmed but believed to be about 4-years-old — who tended to her Ebola infected mother until her death. The young child stayed at the Ebola clinic with her mother, unprotected, up until her death, after which she was moved to a children’s home. The name of this child is “Sweetie Sweetie,” and like other Ebola orphans, she is forced to take refuge in a group home because of the stigma attached to the families of Ebola victims.
“If there’s an earthquake or a war, and you lose a mother or a father, an aunt will take care of you…But this is different. These children aren’t being taken in by extended family. This isn’t like the AIDS orphans,” said Roeland Monasch, Head of UNICEF Office in Sierra Leone.
In the Ebola hubs of Africa, persons are reluctant to take in Ebola orphans because they believe them to be high risk and just do not want to take the chance of accepting these children into their homes, regardless of if the children are exhibiting Ebola symptoms or not.
“People in hard-hit Ebola areas see children as mini time bombs. They do not wash their hands very often, they constantly touch people, they break all the Ebola rules. Something as simple as changing a diaper becomes a serious risk because the virus is spread through bodily fluids,” the New York Times reports.
As pointed out by the Seattle Times, what may be even sadder is that Ebola not only threatens the livelihoods or Ebola orphans because of fear, but also, orphans who had already been in the process of being adopted have had their adoptions put on hold due to the crisis.
“Thousands of children are living through the deaths of their mother, father or family members from Ebola…These children urgently need special attention and support; yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned. Orphans are usually taken in by a member of the extended family, but in some communities, the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties,” explained Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
According to UNICEF, at least 3,700 Ebola orphans have been created in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone since the beginning of the Ebola epidemic. Earlier this month, UNICEF declared 2014 one of the worst years on record for children, owing to all the cases of violence, terrorism, and disease.
[Image via The New York Times]