No Smiles Now

Posted on Nov 7, 2014

“There are no smiles from the children now” says Kelfa Katgbo, Sierra Leone Director of the charity Street Child.

Kelfa describes children whose parents and adult family members have died of Ebola as “having no hope. Some of them think death is better than living”. His mission is to change their situation and bring back their hope. He needs help.

Some Ebola orphans are just three or four years old. A nine year old may find themselves responsible for looking after younger siblings. When someone dies of Ebola the house is disinfected and the contents burnt. Young children can’t survive for long with nothing and no one.

Street Child estimates the number of orphans in Sierra Leone and Liberia at around 12,000. The number increases daily as Ebola spreads and adults die.

Tackling Ebola involves three things:

– Identifying people who may be affected, caring for those who are, and burying those who have died.

– Stopping the spread of the virus by educating people about the disease and the actions they should take.

– Dealing with the humanitarian consequences. People can’t work, food production is disrupted, and children are orphaned.

All three are crucial. Most media attention has been on the first. Street Child says that very little is being done about the third, especially the orphans. As Kelfa Katgbo puts it ”There is more to Ebola than medical beds”.

Kelfa’s organisation has a team of 600 trained social workers in Sierra Leone. Before the Ebola outbreak they worked to get them off the streets, reunited with their families, and into school. Since the outbreak they are helping orphans to survive.

Street Child takes a three phase approach.

First, it provides emergency care – food, bedding and clothing. Second, it finds an adult from the extended family or beyond to care for the orphan. And third, it assists the caregiver with short term assistance such as food and other basic necessities.

The last point is important- a woman living on a dollar a day with eight children of her own is not resourced to take another child into her family. The stigma around children from ‘Ebola families’ is a barrier to their acceptance.

Ebola will eventually be beaten. Then schools-including those funded by Millione-will re-open and the process of rebuilding lives will start. But right now that is a dream. Right now orphans need food, shelter, love and care.

£50 allows Street Child to help an orphan.The process starts here

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