Thousands of children orphaned by Ebola, many face social stigma

Ebola Outbreak

One of the harshest realities of West Africa’s Ebola epidemic is orphaned children. According to UNICEF, thousands of children, perhaps has high as 7,000 have been orphaned by parents who have died from the disease. CCTV America’s Stephanie Freid reported this story from N’Zerekore, Guinea.

Adam, Massa, and Ossaman Makruma are three orphaned siblings in southeast Guinea, who have endured the worst and continue to struggle. Their mother and father died of Ebola two months ago and immediately afterwards all three of them were diagnosed with Ebola.

Two weeks ago, the children, 10, 12, and 14, were pronounced Ebola-free and released from the hospital. But a clean bill of health hasn’t stopped them from being stigmatized as community outcasts. Other children view them as a frightening curiosity and don’t come near them, let alone invite them to play.

Even those who know them well won’t approach them, with only family members offering aid.

Among West Africa’s thousands of orphans, the children are relatively lucky to have an uncle who has taken them in. But they live in extreme poverty and can’t afford to go to school.

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Sierra Leone bans traditional burials of Ebola victims

Sierra Leone’s government is threatening to jail citizens who give Ebola victims traditional funerals, in continued efforts to contain the virus.

Experts say traditional burials are the biggest culprit in the spread of Ebola and have encouraged the practice of having bodies sanitized and re-sanitized before burial.

Families are only permitted to view last rites from a distance, a stark contrast to traditional village burials where kissing and touching the deceased, washing a dead loved one’s body by hand, and even bathing in that water afterwards are standard rituals.

“Ebola is transmitted by the act of those people who love you and care for you whether they be your family members or healthcare professionals,” Susan Shepard, a physician and medical coordinator at the nongovernmental medical organization Alima said.

Such acts are now banned due to the Ebola outbreak where the virus remains active in corpses for days, and is ten times more infectious in the dead over a live Ebola victim.

Government leaders and celebrities are campaigning for safe burials throughout West Africa, but convincing locals to trade tradition for a clinical standard is no easy task, even when noting that 70 percent of Ebola’s spread is attributed to ritual burials.

Meanwhile in Guinea, a ban on traditional burials or even moving bodies without official aid, was put into place months ago. But it’s a soft ban, and Guineans aren’t being actively punished, so in some villages traditional burials continue advancing the spread of Ebola.