UNICEF Works To Help Children Affected By Ebola Outbreak

As part of efforts to stop the Ebola virus from spreading, UNICEF has warned of far reaching consequences for children. In Liberia for example, Ebola has caused severe disruption to children’s health services, school closures and left thousands of children without a parent. Children are dying from diseases such as measles which are preventable by vaccine and pregnant women have very few options regarding where to give birth safely.

“Over the past decade, Liberia has moved from a country mired in devastating conflict to a country celebrating the highest rate of decline in child mortality in Africa. Now Ebola is threatening to wipe out all those hard-earned gains for children and for Liberia.” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Representative in Liberia.

Virtually all healthcare facilities are either only partially functional or closed. This means children are failing to receive vaccinations and are not being treated for common childhood afflictions that cause the vast majority of deaths in children under 5 such as malnutrition, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.

UNICEF in collaboration with the World Bank has flown nearly 248 tonnes of supplies to Liberia which include hygiene kits, personal protection equipment, oral rehydration salts, chlorine and plastic sheeting.

One critical element to ensure that this highly infectious disease is ultimately controlled is prevention. UNICEF provides sanitation and water to treatment centres and social workers mobilise across the country to promote better hygiene practices. UNICEF trains these psycho-social workers and is also trying to get essential child health and maternal services restored.

Children who have lost a family member to the deadly virus face stigma and rejection as the entire communities see them as a source of infection. Many have been left to fend for themselves on their own and are roaming the streets without any parental care, nutrition, healthcare or proper shelter.

UNICEF is supporting safe homes for isolated children who are in 21 days of isolation and have no one to offer any care. The aid agency is also supporting half way houses for children without parental care who were orphaned by Ebola.

With both primary and secondary schools effectively closed and impacting 1.5 million children, UNICEF is working hand in hand with educational authorities in Liberia to make sure children can continue with their education despite not attending school.

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