IA/FREETOWN/DAKAR, 14 January 2016 – Nearly 23,000 children who lost one or both parents or their primary caregivers to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will continue to need care and support, UNICEF said as it welcomed the declaration that there are no more cases of the disease in West Africa.
Today’s declaration that Liberia is free of Ebola transmissions, having completed a 42-day period without a case of the disease, follows Guinea’s declaration in December and Sierra Leone’s in November. The country now enters a three month period of heightened surveillance.
“To have contained this epidemic is an achievement, but we can’t forget the terrible toll Ebola has taken on these countries,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Many people continue to suffer, particularly those children whose lives have been left even more vulnerable by the virus.”
The vast majority of the children whose parents or caregivers died of Ebola have been taken in by immediate or extended family or community members, and it is critical to continue supporting them beyond the emergency phase through cash grants, school support, clothing and food during the transition and to sustain new family care arrangements.
Of the 28,637 people infected by Ebola in the more than two years since the outbreak started, 4,767 were children. A total of 11,315 people lost their lives to the virus – 3,508 of them children, representing more than one in four deaths. In addition, over 1,260 children who have survived the disease across the three countries are facing challenges that are both medical and social as many struggle to be accepted back into their communities.
“Ebola has been a terrifying experience for children,” said Fontaine. “We owe it to them and to all the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to continue to support them as they recover from the devastating effects this disease has had on their lives,” he added.
UNICEF’s support to vulnerable children across the three countries aims to reinforce systems for child protection. This means ensuring that national authorities are able to provide a range of protection services including psychosocial support, family tracing and reunification, interim or alternative care, and state and community-based networks to prevent and respond to abuse and violence against children, who are more at risk.
In addition to child protection support, UNICEF will continue to support campaigns to maintain vigilance and awareness as well as rapid response teams that conduct active surveillance, social mobilization and early isolation and provide basic services, such as health, nutrition and water, hygiene and sanitation services.
UNICEF is appealing for $15 million to fund Ebola emergency interventions in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for January-March 2016. This figure does not cover post-Ebola recovery work – only immediate needs.