Ebola leaves ‘thousands orphaned’
30 September 2014
Last updated at 11:34
Liberia has been worst-hit by Ebola, accounting for 1,830 deaths
At least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola this year, the UN children’s agency has said.
Finding care for them is proving incredibly difficult because the children are stigmatised, Unicef added.
Some are “being fed by neighbours but no more”, the agency said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 3,000 people have died of Ebola in West Africa – the world’s most deadly outbreak of the virus.
The Unicef figure on the number of children orphaned because of Ebola follows a two-week assessment mission in the three countries worst-affected by the outbreak.
It found that children as young as three or four-years-old were being orphaned by the disease.
Children were discovered alone in the hospitals where their parents had died, or back in their communities where, if they were lucky, they were being fed by neighbours – but all other contact with them was being avoided.
The UN children’s agency says there is an urgent need to establish a system for identifying and caring for Ebola orphans.
It will be holding a meeting on the issue in Sierra Leone next month but before then it wants potential carers to come forward.
An earlier version of this story said that 4,900 children had lost parents but the correct figure is 3,700.
Ebola virus disease (EVD)
- Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
- Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
- Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
- Incubation period is two to 21 days
- There is no proven vaccine or cure
- Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
- Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host
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