Even though they were orphaned and homeless, the community shunned Gloria and her three siblings, out of fear. Ebola orphans are often stigmatized – former friends and neighbors turn their backs, out of a basic instinct to survive. Photo Credit: Save the Children/Louise Brooks 2014.

A Save the Children worker gives four orphaned children a bag of supplies. Local sanitation workers burned most of their belongings in an effort to stop the spread of Ebola.

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Orphaned by Ebola, These Children Lost Everything

The Ebola outbreak was a tragedy for the children of West Africa. Across the region, there were 22.3 million people living in areas where transmission occurred. Not only are children directly in danger from infection and likely death from the Ebola virus, they risk losing absolutely everything – their parents, their homes, their security and their futures – from Ebola's indirect effects. Gloria* and her siblings are among the indirect victims, left behind by Ebola. This is Gloria's story.

Gloria wears a brave face, far beyond that of a typical teenage girl. Instead of worrying about homework and cute boys, she worries about what will become of herself and her three younger siblings. They live in Liberia where the world's deadly Ebola outbreak has claimed thousands of lives and left many children orphaned. Gloria and her siblings are among those, left behind by Ebola.

Life was hard enough after their father died several years before the outbreak, but then Gloria's mother was stricken with Ebola. Gloria urgently called for an ambulance but, day after day, her calls went unanswered. She tried to comfort her mother, but she was helpless to ease her pain. When an ambulance finally arrived on the morning of the fourth day, it was too late to save her mother. The ambulance abandoned their dying mother – moving on to countless other patients who stood a better chance to survive.

Gloria's mother died later that day, surrounded by her young children. Her body lay in the house for three days, until it was finally picked up by a burial team. That any child should have to endure this tragedy upon tragedy is utterly heartbreaking. Then, instead of receiving the comfort and solace they needed, the children endured yet another ordeal. A sanitation team arrived to decontaminate their modest home – spraying or burning just about everything. In the process, the four children lost all of their worldly possessions, as well as their home.

Even though they were orphaned and homeless, the community shunned Gloria and her siblings, out of fear. Ebola orphans are often stigmatized – former friends and neighbors turn their backs, out of a basic instinct to survive. So for 21 days, the children lived on the streets, sleeping under a tree or, if they were lucky, in the shade of a shed. Now that we are working with Gloria, she and her little sisters and brother are getting some much-needed help. We provided them essentials like nutritious food and warm blankets. And we are urgently working with local authorities to find a safe place for the children to live.

Save the Children was on the ground in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the world’s Ebola Crisis. With the vital support of our donors, we implemented a comprehensive, child-focused response. This included helping to stop the spread of the disease by building Ebola community care centers, training staff and supplying essential medical equipment. We also provided protection and care for the thousands of nearly forgotten children, like Gloria, tragically left behind by Ebola.

*The child's name has been changed to protect her identity


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