The Aftermath of Ebola
The stories of families, villages and even nations dealing with the Ebola crisis have surrounded us for months, but as with all tragedies, it’s not just the incident itself that devastates, it’s the aftermath. I came across this story in one of the major British newspapers.
In the village of Joeblow in Liberia, there are no longer any mothers left, there are no women at all. All of the children are now orphans. In this village it’s social custom for the mothers and the women to look after the sick and bury the dead, so when a man brought the deadly virus to the village and transmitted it to his wife, 14 local women took it up themselves to look after them. One by one they all were infected with the virus, and one by one the women passed away. There are now 15 orphans in Joeblow and quite literally, no women or mothers to look after them.
Dealing with, treating and eradicating the Ebola virus is only the start of the problem, we now have a long way to go before we clear up the aftermath. British Charity, Street Child, who has been looking after the orphans of Joeblow and trying to find them new homes, estimates that the disease has left 30,000 orphans in West Africa. Whilst they’ve managed to find new homes for 8,000 of the children with family or neighbours, there are clearly many more who still need help. Worryingly, Unicef estimates that only 800 children in Liberia have been resettled permanently.
These children are becoming adults long before their time: they have to look after younger siblings, and deal with day-to-day life without parents.
The Telegraph recounts the story of Chloe Brett, a 28 year old woman from England, UK, who travelled to Joeblow with Street Child. When she first arrived she was struck by the fact that there were no women in the village, only a few elderly women, lots of children and men. It was only after asking one local man what had happened to all the women that she realised the extent of the issue. Every door she knocked on, every person she spoke to revealed another child in need of her help.
“It's now a village of no mothers and very confused children with blank looks on their faces."
Even worse, what little possessions these children did have, have had to be burnt as a precaution against the virus. There are now 11 year old boys looking after 10 month old babies: a situation that is clearly untenable. The amount of work, help and rebuilding required to get Liberia back on its feet, and its children back into education and into stable lives cannot be underestimated. There are some villages and some slums where every family and every home have been affected: we reach a point where numbers are only statistics. It’s stories like these that remind us that Ebola is not just about the number of people who have died: it’s about the thousands of devastated families, communities and countries that now have to rebuild themselves. It’s about the cultures that have been ripped apart and the help that they require to put themselves back together.
So whilst clearing Western Africa of Ebola is clearly the top priority, it would be naïve to think that the problem ends there. For the thousands and thousands of people, particularly children, who have been affected, the aftermath is only just beginning to get started. For these children, even if the virus is totally eradicated, their families will always bear the mark of Ebola. We can’t let the help stop once the disease is under control: the real problem, the social problem, is just beginning to show itself.
To find out more about Street Child’s response to the Ebola crisis, visit their website here.
Lauren is a soon-to-be London lawyer and a current Masters student studying in Rennes, France for a Masters in French law (specializing in European Union Law). She’s a blogger (www.thelifestylediaries.com) and has worked for Her Campus Media as President of the University of Exeter chapter and the Manager of UK Expansion in the past. When she’s not working she loves reading, watching old films, walking with her dog in the English countryside and enjoying all that London has to offer. An avid traveler, and someone who wants to experience as many cultures as she can, Lauren visited Sri Lanka last year and is looking to visit Bali, Italy and Canada this year.
You may also like: