At least 3,700 children in West Africa have seen one or both parents die because of the Ebola epidemic, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, and many are being rejected by surviving relatives out of fear of infection.
Many children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone feel unwanted and abandoned after living through the death of family members, UNICEF said, adding that they urgently need special attention and care.
“Orphans are usually taken in by a member of the extended family, but in some communities, the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa.
The number of Ebola orphans is expected to double by mid-October, according to UN projections.
As part of its response to the outbreak, UNICEF said more than 2,500 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone now immune to the virus will be trained to care for quarantined children.
The organisation added that it is working to provide mental and social support to children in the three West African countries at the centre of the outbreak.