It’s a sad fact that thousands of children who have lost parents to the west African Ebola epidemic risk are being shunned by frightened and suspicious relatives, the UN children’s fund says.
The outbreak has claimed more than 3000 lives this year in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and UNICEF estimates about 3700 children have lost at least one parent — with the number expected to double by mid-October.
“Ebola is turning a basic human reaction like comforting a sick child into a potential death sentence,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for west and central Africa said in a statement on Tuesday.
Bereaved children are usually taken in by a member of the extended family in west African society, but UNICEF says relatives in some communities are rejecting the offspring of Ebola victims because “the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties”.
Fontaine said thousands of children mourning dead parents and in urgent need of support felt “unwanted and even abandoned”.
UNICEF announced that more than 2500 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.
In Guinea, the agency and its partners plans provide about 60,000 vulnerable children and families in Ebola-affected communities with psychological support, it said.
UNICEF has appealed for $US200 million ($216 million) to provide emergency care to children affected by the Ebola and their and their families, but says it has so far received only a quarter of its target.