In good hands
UNICEF teams take action to ensure the best kick start possible in Shekinah’s life, an Ebola orphan, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
When she was born, Shekinah could not enjoy her mom’s warm body, her smell, nor her heartbeats to help calm her. When she was pregnant in her third trimester, Shekinah’s mother was infected with the Ebola virus disease, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Admitted urgently at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, the epidemic epicenter, Shekinah’s mother was taken care of by the medical teams. Quickly, she felt the first contractions and was transferred to the delivery room, which was furnished and equipped by UNICEF. The delivery was high-risk and the medical teams took all the necessary measures to avoid contamination of the newborn.
Shekinah was born on July 26, 2019 and weighed 2.2 kilos. It was necessary to act quickly to take care of little Shekinah, born prematurely and at high-risk of contracting the disease. Immediately separated from her mother, who was to remain in isolation, Shekinah was placed in the care of a 'lullaby', an Ebola survivor. Sadly, eight days after giving birth to Shekinah, the girl’s mother died. She is one of 2,136 people who died of the disease.
Orphan and at high-risk of contracting the disease, Shekinah was referred to the nearby UNICEF supported nursery. Denise and Claudine - two Ebola survivors - then took turns day and night by Shekinah’s side to nourish, cuddle, and cradle her. At least eight times a day, Denise and Claudine fed Shekinah with ready-to-use infant formula, the only acceptable alternative to breast milk. “The nutritional care is an important support for the children”, explains Esther Kavugho Bwirabwahali , the nutritionist who monitored Shekinah from birth.
For a month, Shekinah was closely monitored by nutritionnists, pediatricians, and nurses to make sure that she is growing up healthy. Thanks to the mobilization of all, Shekinah was gaining weight and improving properly. With 1.2 kilos more on the scale, little Shekinah was ready to leave the nursery and join her grandparents.
“I am happy to see my little girl in good health”, explains Masika Neneze, Shekinah’s grandmother. “Most of the community members said she was not going to survive, but the staff went out of their way to save her.”
Since the beginning of the Ebola epidemic in eastern DRC, UNICEF and its partners have supported over 5,469 orphans or children who separated from their parents because of Ebola.
UNICEF’s response to the Ebola epidemic is supported by the World Bank, the European Commission – European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, Gavi - the Vaccine Alliance, the United States Agency for International Development, the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Government of Japan. UNICEF is also supported by the German Committee for UNICEF, the World Bank Group’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, the United Kingdom and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.