COTN to Care for Orphans of Ebola

01/29/15

Imagine watching your entire family die, one by one. 

 
Your uncle is the first one to go. He is your mother’s favorite brother, and she cares for him as his sickness becomes unbearable. There are rumors and whispers that it’s Ebola, but she doesn’t let her mind go there. She just focuses on taking care of her dying brother. 
 
When he passes away, she washes his body, which is now drenched with deadly fluids carrying the Ebola virus. Your whole family attends the funeral and lays their hands on his body in a sign of respect. Even at the funeral, there are some who say it was Ebola. But they touch the corpse, too. They wouldn’t want to insult the dead man and his whole family.
 
The cruel nature of Ebola is that it turns the infected person’s closest relatives into the next victims. Those who love and care for those with the disease are often the next to die. Which is how young children end up losing mother, father, older siblings, aunts, and uncles. 
 
          Children who have lost their parents to Ebola are often shunned by other family members who fear infection.
 
There comes a point when a family says, enough. They understand how Ebola is spread and no longer want anything to do with those who have been close to the dying. And so children are left orphaned, with no extended family willing to take them in. 
 
UNICEF estimates that there are about 8,000 of these Ebola orphans in Sierra Leone. Fearing they might be infected—even long after the incubation period for Ebola has passed—families and neighbors shun the children. Few organizations are equipped to care for children like these, so there are thousands with no place to go. 
 
 About 8,000 children have lost one or both parents to Ebola. Many have no other relatives willing to care for them. 
 
In the next few months, COTN plans to provide temporary care for up to 50 Ebola orphans in Freetown, Sierra Leone. COTN’s in-country staff will work with the Ministry of Social Welfare in Sierra Leone to identify children who have been orphaned by Ebola and need a place to live. Children will not be brought into the center if there is any concern that they have Ebola themselves.
 
This temporary care center will house children for up to one year while we work to reconnect them with relatives. If any of the children are unable to connect with relatives or suitable families after a year, COTN will welcome those children into our family-style Children’s Homes in Banta, Sierra Leone.
 
The goal of our care center is to provide children with a safe place where they can be loved and cared for while we search for a relative willing to take them in. 
 
The need for a center like this in Sierra Leone is urgent. But there is much work to be done before COTN can care for these children. We plan to renovate our school in Marjay Town, on the outskirts of Freetown, to transform it into a suitable home for temporary orphan care. We will add toilets, beds, water tanks, and better security. 
 
If you would like to help care for the orphans of Ebola, you can make a donation today to help cover renovations and staffing costs.