Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. A new interim care center is aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
UNICEF says more than 3,700 children across West Africa have lost one or both parents to Ebola. Doctors Without Borders' Axelle Vandoornick said the growing number of Ebola orphans is a crisis of its own.
“There are many orphans, this is again when we talk about crisis in a crisis this is one of the consequences at a social level. There are more and more orphans," said Vandoornick.
Child care services in Sierra Leone are almost non existent. Ministry of Health social services officer Doris Mansare is in charge of running Kailahun's first Ebola orphanage.
“And its difficult for us to find family members, so this interim care center was established to basically to insure that we get the children from the treatment center, those that are cured from the Ebola virus and also those that are with their parents, but then are negative. We bring them to the interim care center for three or four days, then they are reunified with family members at there respective locations,” said Mansare.
These three siblings were living alone after both parents died of Ebola. Their village rejected them.
“We have children who are unaccompanied, they are just living alone in their family home, about 50 of such children, who are living alone,” said Mansare.
Vandoornick said it can be hard to find surviving family.
“Ebola is wiping out entire family's because the contamination inside the families is the highest. A mother kissing her child, a father taking his daughter in his arms, and when you have one suspected case in one family, soon after we have basically all members of the family,” said Vandoornick.
The fate of many of these children is unclear. Some of their parents are still sick, kept in isolation at one of Sierra Leone’s Ebola case management centers.
Doris Mansare said she hopes the new center will help the growing number of orphans, but she worries about their future.
“We are having more orphans, more unaccompanied children and these children will become vulnerable in the future some will not be able to cope with the care givers where we place them, and what can happen is it will lead to other child protection issues like they becoming street children,” she said.
Vandoornick hopes there will be many child care centers set up across Sierra Leone.