Orphans of Ebola Are Being Ostracized by Cautious Relatives

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
Children stand in a nursery while their parents are away at church on Sept. 28, 2014, in Monrovia, Liberia. The hardest-hit nation, Liberia has seen 3,000 cases of Ebola and almost 1,600 deaths, with health workers turning people away from treatment units because of chronic shortages of beds and staff. 

As of press time, the first Ebola victim had been diagnosed here in the U.S.—and approximately 3,000 people have died because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But what has been neglected and underreported are the children the dead are leaving behind. West African orphans, many of them with one or both parents deceased, are being shunned by their surviving relatives who are scared to take them in for fear that the children have contracted Ebola as well, Al-Jazeera reports.

“Ebola is turning a basic human reaction like comforting a sick child into a potential death sentence,” Manuel Fontaine, a regional director with UNICEF, explained. “These children urgently need special attention and support, yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned.”


UNICEF is making it its mission to tend to the people who are infected with the virus as well as their families, who are also indirectly affected. The agency has asked the international donor community for $200 million in that regard. So far UNICEF has received a quarter of that amount.

The U.S. has taken the lead in the global effort to put a stop to the epidemic. Of the 3,000 troops that President Barack Obama said he would send to the region to help coordinate the emergency-response efforts, 150 were dispatched Tuesday.

“We are supporting U.S. government and international relief efforts by leveraging our unique U.S. military capabilities,” said Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the Pentagon’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Al-Jazeera reported that a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report warned that the number of Ebola infections will double every 20 days if response efforts don’t ramp up.

According to Al-Jazeera, “In a worst-case scenario, the number of Ebola cases could swell to 1.4 million by mid-January, U.S. health experts warned.”


Read more at Al-Jazeera.

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