Thousands of children affected by Ebola abandoned in West Africa

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Orphans whose parents have died of Ebola in Kenema, SIerra Leone. Photo: WHO /Stéphane Saporito

At least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola since the start of the outbreak in West Africa, according to the UN Children's fund UNICEF.

UNICEF says most of the children are being shunned by their surviving families and the communities where they come from for fear of infection.

The fund says the stigma and fear surrounding the Ebola disease outbreak is breaking down family ties and social cohesion in the affected countries.

UNICEF Regional Director for West & Central Africa Manuel Fontaine says the organization is looking at traditional and new ways to help provide children with the physical and emotional healing they need including training some of the Ebola survivors to provide care and support to quarantined children in treatment centres.

"Increasing number of children are left on their own in their homes because there was an Ebola case. They are usually being fed by neighbours but no more than that and not being care for. So we really need to put in place systems. We have in a way the great advantage that both Liberia and Sierra Leone have fairly advanced legal framework for taking care of children without parents and orphaned because of the wars.. but the big issue for us is going to be stigma and the risk to see social cohesion in communities collapsing and difficulty to find opportunities for these children."

The World Health Organization (WHO) says at least 15 per cent of those killed by the Ebola disease in Guinea Liberia and Sierra Leone are children below the age of 15 years.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1.42″

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