United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has said that children represent an unusually high proportion of people affected by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Ebola treatment centres in Beni and Mangina are currently treating six children who were infected with the virus or are suspected cases.
Two children have already died from the disease.
UNICEF has identified 53 orphaned children who have lost their parents to Ebola.
A 13-year-old, whom we will call Dieudonne to protect her identity, has lost eight members of his immediate family to Ebola.
“They all died of Ebola. It was my entire family. It was my mum initially, and then my sisters and aunts followed. Another is in hospital. I’ve lost eight family members,” he said.
Health workers are going out on a campaign drive to speak to the public including children about Ebola and on how to protect themselves from the virus.
The outbreak is spreading across the lush farmlands of eastern Congo. Its epicentre is the town of Mangina in North Kivu province and it has already reached neighbouring Ituri province.
“The impact of the disease on children is not limited to those who have been infected or suspected. Many children are faced with the illness or death of their parents and loved ones, while some children have lost large parts of their families and become isolated. These children urgently need our support,” Gianfranco Rotigliano, the UNICEF representative in Congo, said in a statement.
UNICEF and its partners have trained 88 psychosocial workers to assist and comfort children in centres and to support children who have been discharged as free of Ebola, but may be at risk of stigmatization within the community.
The psychosocial workers organize awareness-raising activities to facilitate the return of these children to their communities.
“I can’t just kill myself. I must continue to live even in this situation,” said Dieudonne.
Congo has experienced 10 Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered on the Ebola River in 1976, altogether killing some 900 people.