Field Notes

Orphans of Ebola

by: Meredith Maines
September 09, 2014

When children in West Africa lose a parent to Ebola, it could mean they’ve lost everything. As the outbreak’s death toll continues to rise—right now at 2,296 according to the World Health Organization—more and more are orphaned. Extended families aren’t coming forward to claim them, leaving these children completely vulnerable. What’s to blame? Sierra Leone’s UNICEF director says it's simply Ebola’s intense stigma.

Never before has this rate of neglect been seen. Even during the HIV pandemic, UNICEF says 90 percent of orphans were taken in by extended families. But because of the Ebola virus’ unique 21-day incubation period, families fear children of victims carry latent symptoms, waiting to infect entire households. 

Child welfare agencies and government programs are already putting other initiatives at risk as they strain to reshuffle resources to these child survivors. If they can’t accommodate them, who will?

In countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, children are at greatest risk of waterborne disease. Of the 2.2 million deaths a year attributed to the cause, most victims are under the age of five. Imagine how much more vulnerable these children will be without family or the aid of over-extended organizations!

James 1:27 says God’s definition of true religion is to care for orphans like these. Providing access to safe water in affected areas is one tangible way we can do so. Your support will help us drill and rehabilitate wells at clinics, provide protective gear, and save parents’ lives—before their children are ever at risk of being abandoned!

Please give now to expedite our relief efforts and stop Ebola from creating more orphans.

Published September 11, 2014