The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports a growing number of children in eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo orphaned by the Ebola outbreak in the region are at risk of stigmatization and abandonment.
UNICEF reports a number of children have died from the disease. Others, it says, have lost one or both parents to Ebola or have been left to fend for themselves while their parents are confined in Ebola treatment centers.
UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, says his and other aid agencies so far have identified 155 children who have been orphaned or separated from their parents with no one to care for them. He says these children are extremely vulnerable.
“Children who lose a parent due to Ebola are at risk of being stigmatized, isolated or abandoned, in addition to the experience of losing a loved one or primary caregiver.”
Boulierac says UNICEF worries about the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of these orphaned and separated children. He says his agency is tailoring its assistance programs to meet the specific needs of each individual child.
“For instance, a new-born who has lost his mother has different needs than a school-aged child. Our support to an orphaned or unaccompanied child typically includes psycho-social care, food and material assistance, and support to reintegrate into school,” Boulierac said.
Ebola was declared on August 1 in the DRC’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces. This is the 10th outbreak in the DRC since Ebola was first identified in 1976. Latest estimates by the World Health Organization find 147 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in the eastern part of the country, including 97 deaths.
WHO reports progress is being made in limiting the spread of the deadly virus in some areas. But, it warns the epidemic is far from over and much work to combat the disease lies ahead.