Helping the youngest victims of Ebola

Almost 3.000 children are orphaned or separated from their parents after the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Willy Mbemba (translated from French by Darren Ou Yong)
Less enfants représentent aujourd'hui plus d'un tiers des cas d'Ebola à l'est de la RDC
25 July 2019

As the Ebola epidemic in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to claim victims, children represent more than a third of cases today. In order to avoid contamination through breastfeeding, the youngest children and babies are separated from their mothers.

“For a baby separated from their mother because of Ebola, nutritional care is the most delicate part of their treatment,” explains Yvonne Musoke, nutritionist at the treatment centre of Butembo. “The diet of infants suspected or confirmed to be ill from Ebola exclusively consists of formula milk that is ready for use. Choosing and handling the milk requires strict precautions so that another infection does not worsen the baby’s sickness,” the nutritionist adds.

Using ready-to-feed milk reduces the need to handle the milk and facilitates care for babies that are deprived of milk because of the Ebola virus disease. “A baby who is sick from Ebola and is admitted a few hours after their birth left totally recovered,” says Merveille proudly. She is a survivor of Ebola who is notwin charge of children and babies at the treatment centre. Recovered and thus immunised, Merveille gives her time to help take charge of children admitted to the treatment centre of Butembo, by helping these children to get better and by giving them the love that each child needs.

Les enfants représentent aujourd'hui plus d'un tiers des cas d'Ebola à l'est de la RDC

UNICEF works with Ebola survivors like Merveille to look after young children separated from their mothers. The assistance of UNICEF to orphans and unaccompanied children is adapted to the specific needs of each child. Since the start of the Ebola epidemic, nearly 400 babies who could not be breastfed benefited from ready-to-feed milk in the different treatment centres, day care centres, orphanages, and communities.

This is the case of the baby Daniella, who was infected by her mother. When she was only 12 days old, Daniella was admitted to the treatment centre. During the length of the treatment, Merveille took care of Daniella like her own child, giving her all the love that she needed in order to recover.

Nutrition plays a vital role in the fight against the Ebola virus disease and the infections linked thereto. Even though breast milk is the food exclusively recommended for children until the age of 6 months, ready-to-feed formula milk helps to save children who are deprived of breast milk 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 OperationsGavi - 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.