The effect of the Ebola outbreak on children in Sierra Leone has been devastating. As of 21stJanuary 2015, UNICEF’s Family Tracing and Reunification Network in Sierra Leone estimated that 15,623 children have been directly affected by Ebola. Over 8,019 were noted to have lost one or both parents to the disease and 565 being unaccompanied or separated from their caregiver. Even though the last few weeks have seen a decrease in case numbers in Sierra Leone, the death toll continues to rise. It is likely that the number of children displaced by Ebola will increase exponentially before the end of the epidemic.
The Ebola virus has weakened extended family networks and in some cases, wiped out entire families. In addition, due to heightened fears of infection, children are being abandoned or rejected by their communities – left alone to fend for themselves. This situation presents an increased vulnerability of neglect, abuse or exploitation of these children. Furthermore, children orphaned by Ebola are suffering from extreme grief and stigmatization and at a time when these children require the most comfort and support they are being ostracized from their communities.
Whilst there have been some positive signs that the Ebola epidemic is slowing down in Sierra Leone since the beginning of 2015, the country’s economy has suffered greatly because of this crisis. The disease has slowed down economic growth; closed businesses and disrupted the livelihood of millions of Sierra Leoneans, especially the most poor and vulnerable. This environment has created increased vulnerabilities for children – especially those who have lost one or both primary caregivers. With Sierra Leone’s existing street child problem, Ebola affected children face a very uncertain and dire future. We cannot allow this situation to continue.
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 UNMEER External Report, 8th Jan 2015