April 2015 – HEALTH & DISEASE – The Ebola crisis created more than 25,000 orphans in a little over a year in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The U.N. Secretary-General Ebola specialist David Nabarro warned Sunday that because of climate change, outbreaks like Ebola could become more frequent. Nabarro told British newspaper The Independent that diseases which can be transmitted from animals to humans were a “local and global threat to humanity.” Almost 10,500 people died from the recent Ebola outbreak, the vast majority of whom were from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. The disease is believed to have come from fruit bats. “There will be more: one, because people are moving around more; two, because the contact between humans and the wild is on the increase; and maybe because of climate change. The worry we always have is that there will be a really infectious and beastly bug that comes along,” Nabarro said. Before 2013, there had never been an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Some scientists have suggested that the increase in population, deforestation, and the change in rainfall has affected the behavior and numbers of fruit bats, which may have led to the outbreak.
Humanitarian aid workers have reported that Ebola epidemic, which began in December 2013, has created more than 25,000 orphans, after the disease killed their parents. The average age of the orphans is eight years old. They see this as the largest generation of orphans since the Liberia and Sierra Leone civil wars 20 years ago. UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said, “As the Ebola-affected countries head towards recovery, we should take the opportunity to improve child protection services for all vulnerable children … We have a chance to address other forms of vulnerability that existed before the Ebola crisis, such as child marriage, child labor, sexual violence and exploitation.” Fontaine added, “Since overcoming their initial fears and misconceptions about Ebola, families have been showing incredible support, providing care and protection for children whose parents have died.”
Almost 60 percent of the children orphaned by Ebola live in rural settings, making it harder for social workers to work with them. An aid worker with the humanitarian organization Street Child, John Pryor, told the British news outlet The Telegraph, “The situation for these young female orphans is dire; without the guidance, support and security of their caregiver they are extremely vulnerable.” Pryor said there were many cases of abuse and rape against the young girls left orphaned during the Ebola outbreak. “I heard from young girls who have been through so much and are understandably traumatized by their experiences … The vast numbers of orphans I surveyed spoke of trauma, abuse, sexual exploitation and living in constant fear for their future,” he said. –Telsur