The number of orphans who have lost at least one parent to an Ebola virus is expected to double in West Africa, the UN children’s fund has said, intensifying a childcare problem as extended family members shun offsprings of Ebola victims.
Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 3,000 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, leaving at least 3,700 children in the hands of relatives who are too frightened to take care of them, UNICEF said.
“The fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa, said on Tuesday.
He said that thousands of children mourning dead parents and in urgent need of support felt “unwanted and even abandoned”.
Plan of action
UNICEF announced that more than 2,500 Ebola survivors – who are thought to have some immunity to the virus – will be trained in Sierra Leone to provide care and support to quarantined children in treatment centres.
“Ebola is turning a basic human reaction like comforting a sick child into a potential death sentence,” said Fontaine.
“The vast majority of the children affected by Ebola are still left without appropriate care. We cannot respond to a crisis of this nature and this scale in the usual ways. We need more courage, more creativity, and far far more resources.”
In Guinea, the agency and its partners plan to provide about 60,000 vulnerable children and families in Ebola-affected communities with psychological support, the agency said.
UNICEF has appealed for $200m to provide emergency care to children affected by Ebola and their families, but has said it has so far received only a quarter of its target amount.