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KINSHASA/DAKAR/NEW YORK/GENEVA, 21 September 2018 – UNICEF and its partners have so far identified 155 children who have been orphaned or left unaccompanied as a result of the latest Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This figure includes children who have lost one or both parents, or primary caregivers to Ebola, as well as those who have been left unaccompanied while their parents are isolated in Ebola treatment centres.
Children who lose a parent due to Ebola are at risk of being stigmatized, isolated or abandoned, in addition to the experience of losing a loved one or primary caregiver. This group of children, in addition to those who have been left on their own while their parents receive in-patient treatment, are particularly vulnerable and UNICEF is concerned for their wellbeing.
“The loss of a parent or a loved one can be a deeply upsetting experience for a child,” said Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “Our mission is to protect and to assist all the children affected by the Ebola virus. As the outbreak continues, we will continue to coordinate with our partners to ensure their physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing.”
UNICEF assistance to orphaned and unaccompanied children is tailored to meet the specific needs of the individual child. A new-born who has lost his mother has different needs than a school-aged child. UNICEF support to an orphaned or unaccompanied child typically includes psycho-social care, food and material assistance, and support to reintegrate into school.
One hundred and twelve of the orphaned and unaccompanied children are school-aged and UNICEF and its partners have worked to get them back into the classroom.
“Returning to school is essential for orphaned or unaccompanied children,” said Dr. Rotigliano. “It brings stability, a sense of belonging to the community and hope for the future.”
Children are greatly affected by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the eastern DRC, particularly those that are orphaned by the disease or has become unaccompanied. Since the beginning of the Ebola-epidemic UNICEF and its partners have:
- Trained 219 psycho-social agents to rapidly identify the specific needs of orphaned and unaccompanied children and provide assistance;
- Provided food and psycho-social assistance to the 155 identified Ebola-orphans and unaccompanied children in the affected areas of Beni, Mangina, Makeke and Butembo;
- Supplied school material and uniforms for the 112 Ebola orphans and unaccompanied children of school age, and paid for their school fees;
- Deployed seven nutritionists to assist orphaned and unaccompanied children in the Ebola treatment centres;
- Sensitized 3,163 school directors and teachers in 326 schools to support the reintegration of children affected by the disease and to avoid stigmatization.
UNICEF continues to trace children affected by the Ebola virus and expand its psycho-social and material assistance as the epidemic evolves.
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