Tag Archives: orphans

Ebola wipes out every mother in Liberian village

 

In Joeblow, Liberia, every mother has been killed by Ebola leaving a village full of confused and devastated children

By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

11:35AM GMT 05 Jan 2015

For 11-year-old Montgomery Philip, childhood is over. Six months ago he would have been playing football with his schoolmates, but now his job is to care for his 10-monthold baby brother Jenkie. The pair are both victims of the Ebola virus. Not because they caught the disease, but because they live in Joeblow, Liberia, where the devastating outbreak has killed every mother in the village.

The women died because social convention decrees it is they who tend to the sick and bury the dead.

When a man brought Ebola to the village and passed it on to his wife, it was 14 mothers who cared for her and eventually laid out her body. One by one they caught the disease and died, leaving 15 children orphaned.

Chloe Brett, 28, from Norwich, has been working with the British charity Street Child to try to find homes for the children left behind in the aftermath of the outbreak.

“Seeing Montgomery struggle to change the baby’s nappy without any guidance is something that made me realise just how devastating this disease can be on those left behind,” she said. “He was a helpless 11-year-old having to become a man well before his time.

Related Articles

“Although it feels like Liberia is coming out of the end of the crisis, it is now dealing with the aftermath, and what it has left behind is huge groups of children who are on their own. When we visited Joeblow, it seemed normal at first, with children in the street, men, a couple of old women. But then we realised there were no other women anywhere.

“We talked to a man who had survived Ebola and he told us what had happened.

All of the women had caught the disease.

“It’s now a village of no mothers and very confused children with blank looks on their faces.”

Nearly 7,000 people have died from Ebola and more than 18,000 have caught the disease, mainly in West Africa. Liberia has been hit the hardest, with 3,290 deaths so far compared with 2,085 in Sierra Leone and 1,525 in Guinea.

Street Child been working in Liberia to find homes for orphaned children over the past five years, but the Ebola crisis has made the situation far worse.

The charity estimates that the disease has left 30,000 orphans in West Africa. So far, it has helped 8,000 find new homes with relations or neighbours. Many children are being looked after in two shelters in the country’s capital, Monrovia.

Children with sick parents also need to be quarantined for 21 days to make sure they have not contracted the illness.

The orphans are placed in groups of three, but if a child starts to show symptoms of Ebola, they are isolated immediately – a terrifying prospect for a youngster who has just lost their parents.

According to Unicef, just 800 children have been resettled in Liberia to date.

“The future for these children is bleak if they do not find new homes,” added Miss Brett, who is the Liberia programme director at Street Child.

“I saw Montgomery carrying his 10-month-old brother – that is life for him now. He won’t be able to go back to school if he is looking after his brother.

“All the children wear rags because all their clothes and possessions have had to be burnt as a precaution because of the disease.

“We try to find relatives or neighbours to take the children in, but the community is scared.

“We went to one slum where every home had been affected. Every door we knocked on, we found more children who needed homes.”

Chloe Brett has been working to find homes for children left behind in the aftermath of the outbreak

Miss Brett has come across households in the back streets of Monrovia where children have been sleeping with the dead body of their father for three days.

Neighbours had turned away the youngsters, fearing they could be infected.

Many simply cannot afford to feed another mouth. Ebola has caused the price of rice to increase by at least 20 per cent in Monrovia, and in some locations it has almost doubled.

Tom Dannatt, Street Child’s chief executive, said: “Thirty thousand children in West Africa will have spent this Christmas mourning the loss of a mother or father as a result of Ebola.

“They want for the most basic of human needs while the majority of us in the UK have been enjoying indulgence and celebration.”

He added: “I have no doubt that aid from larger organisations is coming, but there is an immediate need which we at Street Child can meet right now. We just need the financial support.

“On my last trip to Sierra Leone in November, when I spent time with Street Child teams visiting some of the hardest-hit communities, I learnt three things.

“Firstly, we know about Western aid and medical Ebola heroes, but the heroism of so many Sierra Leoneans at community level is inspiring – and underreported. We should invest more in these people.

“Secondly, the medical and military effort is impressive, but the pure humanitarian aid response appears to have hardly begun.

“Thirdly, not enough Sierra Leoneans know ‘enough’ about Ebola – especially in the most rural and poorest places.”

“Montgomery looks after his brother now. That is his life”.

Visit street-child.co.uk/ebolaresponse for more information

African children orphaned by Ebola shunned, face death, UNICEF says

Published September 30, 2014

FoxNews.com

liberia-ebola-extended-family.jpg

Thousands of African children who have lost parents to Ebola are facing a “potential death sentence” as they are at risk of being shunned from society, UNICEF says.

The U.N. organization said Tuesday that at least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola.

“Thousands of children are living through the deaths of their mother, father or family members from Ebola,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West & Central Africa, said in a statement.

“These children urgently need special attention and support; yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned,” he added. “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.”

UNICEF says reports suggest that the number of children orphaned by Ebola has spiked in recent weeks and is projected to double by mid-October.

“Ebola is turning a basic human reaction like comforting a sick child into a potential death sentence,” Fontaine said.

To provide children with help, UNICEF is helping Liberia train 400 additional mental health and social workers. In Sierra Leone, the organization will train more than 2,500 Ebola survivors – who are now immune to the disease – to provide care to quarantined children and help them trace their parents. In Guinea, UNICEF and other partners aim to provide psychosocial support to 60,000 vulnerable children and families.

Meanwhile, as the death toll from Ebola soars, crowded clinics are turning over beds as quickly as patients are dying. This leaves social workers and psychologists struggling to keep pace and notify families, who must wait outside for fear of contagion. Also, under a Liberian government decree, all Ebola victims must be cremated, leaving families in unbearable pain with no chance for goodbye, no body to bury.

“People are standing around for weeks. Nobody is coming to them. There should be a system in place for disseminating information but there is nothing,” says Kanyean Molton Farley, a 39-year-old community leader in one of Monrovia’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

At least 1,830 people are believed to have died from the disease in Liberia, and many fear the actual toll is far higher and rising fast. A recent update from the World Health Organization showed that more than half the cases in Liberia happened in the preceding 21 days.

Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia has three phone lines to answer calls from worried families. The group asks relatives to come in person for updates on their loved ones inside the 160-bed facility, but sometimes they get news from friends or family inside instead, says Athena Viscusi, a clinical social worker.

“We encourage them to come and meet with a counselor,” says Viscusi. She notes that Doctors Without Borders hopes eventually to photograph the dead before cremation to help with identification.

Dozens of family members show up each day at the gates of the city’s Ebola clinics, anxiously clutching cellphones and desperate for any update on their loved ones inside. They pace back and forth, leaving only to buy more phone credit. All the while, they keep a safe distance from those stricken with Ebola who huddle by the gates in hopes of gaining a coveted bed inside and a chance at life.

Linda Barlea, 32, is desperate to know what has become of her boyfriend of 13 years. One by one his family has been decimated by Ebola: First his brother, then his mother, then a sister, then another brother. Only the 7-year-old niece Miamu has survived, and then was chased from Barlea’s home by fearful neighbors.

Barlea’s mother called the clinic’s official hotline for patient information and was told his name appeared on the list of the dead. Barlea says she needs to hear it for herself. But every time she calls now, she gets a busy signal. So she has shown up here, demanding answers before she will leave.

The lack of official confirmation has led to disastrous misinformation in some cases: Julius Prout’s family held two wakes for him after being told by a security guard at the clinic that he was dead. Family members gathered first for several days at his parents’ home, then at his uncle’s.

Instead, health workers had merely moved him to another section of the hospital and burned his cellphone along with his belongings for fear of contamination.

When the 32-year-old nurse regained his strength almost a week later, the first thing he saw was a Bible given to him by a nurse. He says it is no coincidence that he opened it randomly to John 11, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Prout then borrowed a phone to call the family. All he could hear was the deafening sound of loved ones yelling and cheering in the background.

“We rejoiced and were so grateful that he was alive,” says his uncle, Alexander Howard, 57.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CONTINUE READING…