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Helping Children Survive the Deadly Ebola Outbreak in Africa
Children need your support of our Ebola's Children Relief Fund to reach more people at risk of Ebola, help save more lives and protect Ebola's orphans. Your support will combat the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Our goal is to reach over 3.5 million people.
Eight months after the Ebola outbreak was first identified in West Africa, it has evolved into the largest, most severe and complex outbreak in the history of the disease. In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Ebola continues to accelerate and remains largely unchecked. As of October 25, the total number of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola worldwide was over 10,900, with almost 5,000 deaths. The impact of the crisis is thought to be far greater, however, as not all cases have been reported.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that new Ebola cases could climb to 10,000 per week in these three countries in the next two months without a concerted effort to contain the disease. In addition, countries that share borders with areas of active transmission – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire and Mali – are also at risk; the first case of Ebola in Mali was reported by the WHO on October 23. With no known cure, less than half of those infected are expected to survive. However, that Nigeria and Senegal have successfully contained their small outbreaks is evidence that contact tracing and quarantine measures can be effective.
Save the Children has had a strong presence in West Africa for years and responds to children affected by the region’s disasters and wars. We are working around the clock in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to help stem the spread of the virus and check its catastrophic impact on children and their families.
We are training health workers, teaching people how to limit the risks to themselves and their families, distributing protective kits, and providing much- needed medical equipment. Our teams are providing psychosocial support to survivors and helping child welfare committees identify and refer unaccompanied or abandoned children to appropriate services. We are also working to contain transmission through the construction of hospital-like treatment units and the construction and management of community-based care centers.
Save the Children is implementing an integrated response strategy that focuses not only on slowing the rate of Ebola transmission and providing care for Ebola patients, but also addresses children’s health, protection, education and nutrition. This differentiates us from other aid agencies in West Africa, and is what enables us to work on many fronts for children during a crisis of this magnitude.
More About the Ebola Outbreak
Across the region, there are 22.3 million people living in areas where Ebola transmission has occurred. Liberia is believed to be the nation most severely impacted—Ebola has surfaced in all of its 15 counties and some 49 percent of all cases are in that country. Women, because of their traditional role as caregivers, are bearing the brunt of the disease burden and make up an estimated 75% of all cases.
The Impact on Children and Families
Children are always among the most vulnerable in an emergency. Across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, an estimated 10.3 million children and adolescents under age 18 are directly or indirectly affected.
Children and their families, whether infected or affected, are being exposed to extreme distress due to loss, family separation, isolation and overall disruption of society. Confinement to homes, seeing health workers dressed in protective gear and witnessing the suffering of family members are especially frightening to children. Stigma and fear within communities further contributes to isolation of children whose families are directly affected by Ebola.
Children who are unaccompanied or separated from families when caregivers are admitted to treatment centers, when they themselves are admitted, and when they become orphaned are at increased risk of psychosocial distress and exploitation. They are in urgent need of support, including family tracing, reunification and reintegration, alternative care, psychosocial support and assistance in meeting day-to- day needs. According to the United Nations, there are at least 3,700 children who have lost one or more of their parents to Ebola since the start of the crisis.
We are also deeply concerned about children’s access to health care and their nutrition. Already weak health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are collapsing under the strain of the outbreak; the closing of health facilities has left many communities without access to medical care for common, treatable illnesses, immunizations and maternal and reproductive health care. As a result, Ebola is reversing considerable gains that had been made in recent years, especially in Liberia, to curb maternal and child deaths.
According to USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a major food crisis may occur in West Africa if the number of Ebola cases continues to rise. Families who have been unable to plant crops are at risk of losing income and face greater food insecurity, as food prices are rising thereby putting children at greater risk of hunger and malnutrition.
School closures are impacting children’s education as they lose out on critical months of learning. UNICEF estimates that more than 4 million children across the affected region will be impacted by school closures as a result of the Ebola outbreak. We know from other crises that once children are out of school, many never return and instead become at risk of child labor or other exploitative situations.
Last Update October 29, 2014