When comforting a child is a potential death sentence

UNICEF and Save the Children report that thousands of children are dying or being left orphaned as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Resources are needed and new and creative ways to deal with this crises need to be found.

Today, 2 October 2014, a report from CNN quotes U.N. child agency UNICEF as saying that 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola and relatives are terrified of taking them in for fear of infection. This has resulted in children feeling abandoned and stigmatised while also mourning the loss of their caregivers.

“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,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director.

WIth Ebola infections increasing at an alarming rate, UNICEF fears that the number of orphans could double within the month and UNICEF has stated that it is looking at both new and traditional ways to help provide children with the physical and emotional healing needed in the wake of this unprecedented outbreak of the disease.

In Liberia, UNICEF is training additional mental health workers to ensure children affected by the deadly virus get the support they need.

Guinea has plans in place to provide psychological support to 60,000 children and families affected by Ebola.

Comforting a child is a ‘potential death sentence’

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

Save the Children reports that in Sierra Leone, around 5 new cases are reported every hour and untold numbers of children are dying. Sadly there are only 327 beds available for Ebola patients in that country.

Ebola has killed more than 3,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the United Nations says those numbers are vastly under-reported.

Read the full report here.

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