Ebola Orphans Abandoned At Christmas
December 29, 2014
* Three families orphaned by Ebola receive donations thanks to MailOnline
* British charity Street Child has stepped in to provide business grants
* The families will also receive ongoing support to help them survive
* It is estimated 42,000 children in Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost parents
The children had been left to fend for themselves despite a multi-million pound international appeal to raise funds to help and despite promises from the Liberian government that they would be helped.
Their plight is that of tens of thousands of other children - an estimated 42,000 in Liberia and Sierra Leone - who have lost parents to the deadly virus, which has killed 7,518 people in West Africa this year this year.
The Mail returned to the slums of Monrovia yesterday to check up on the children whose plight we highlighted in a series of reports last month. We wanted to make sure that they would not only be able to enjoy Christmas this year, but for many more years to come. Instead, we found that they had been abandoned.
In September, Chancy Kpaingba, 15, watched his mother die in the bed next to him at an Ebola treatment centre in Monrovia. Chancy survived, but with his father already dead, the boy and his four brothers and sisters found themselves orphaned and on their own.
Sitting outside the tin shack of a relative who is trying to look after them, Chancy said: 'We are missing our parents, I don't have any new clothes to wear today.
'Look at my friends - they have clothes to wear. I remember during the Christmas season mother use to take us to the market and buy clothes and toys for us, but today they are dead.'
He began to cry. His 17-year-old sister, Odell, said they had been abandoned since the deaths of their parents. No-one from the government or the international aid organisations had done anything to give them a future, she said.
'I am frustrated because we have being abandoned by family members as well as the government. Today is Christmas: how will we be happy with no Ma or Pa. No-one is helping us. It is very hard to get food everyday because our aunt whom is taking care of us does not have any money or any support,' she said.
Since the death of their parents, other people in the area were afraid of them and had shunned them, said Odell. They had to resort to begging for food from friends and family.
'At times I feel so sad that we have turned into a beggar because our parents have died. We don't even have something to remember them. No grave site. Only God is our hope now,' Odell said, and then she too burst into tears.
The Kpaingba children should never have been in this position. Last month Liberia's minister for gender and development, Julia Duncan-Cassell, promised to take a personal interest in their case - and that of three other groups of orphans - after the Mail visited her in her office in Monrovia to highlight their plight.
According to the children, there has been no such intervention. Liberia's politicians have been busy with senate elections this month.
However, when challenged today, the minister instructed a member of her staff to contact the children immediately to offer them assistance.
To try to help, the Mail contacted the UK charity Street Child, which has been working hard to provide a safety net for the orphans.
Together we were able to deliver food and toys to three of the four families - one had gone out of the city - so that they could have a Christmas meal and a few presents. The presents included teddy bears, toy cats and dogs and toy cars. The food included Liberian staples - rice, vegetable oil, beans and salt.
But the most important present was the once provided by Street Child, in the form of a promise of ongoing assistance to get them back on their feet.
That includes a business grant for the friends and relatives who have taken them in to help them earn enough money to support the children.
Street Child programme director Chloe Brett said the woman looking after the Kpaingba children was sitting in their compound with her head in her hands when the team arrived.
'She hadn't made any money at the market for three days and was thinking through how she might be able to provide food for the family tomorrow, or even today. She was hungry, sad and struggling. The arrival of Street Child meant we could give them food relief now and some toys for Xmas. We will help her set up her own small business in the new year so she no longer has to rely on odd jobs and unreliable income. I'm told the joy in her face was overwhelming: she felt like a miracle had occurred and all her prayers answered this Christmas.'
The team also visited two other families featured in the Mail's reports last month - the Maccy and Moore children - in Monrovia's Clara Town slum and delivered the same package of presents, food and the promise of ongoing help.
Many other children were not so lucky. No parents meant no presents and little to eat yesterday. In Liberia, the worst hit country, 3,376 people have died. Many were parents with large families and their children faced their first Christmas on their own.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of international aid has been pledged to the country but with much of the money directed to building and running treatment units, the fate of the survivors has taken a back seat.
The Liberian authorities and some international aid agencies have been slow to tackle the problem, blaming the initial decision to concentrate on treatment centres for the failure to provide a safety net.
Street Child is one of the few agencies actively targeting orphans, working with 10,000 children in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Brett estimates that there are 30,000 orphans in Sierra Leone, while Liberian government officials last month put the figure there at 12,000 or more.
'There are thousands of children left orphaned by the Ebola outbreak and the international community is being too slow to respond,' said Brett.
'Very little support is actually finding its way to the children who are left in their communities traumatised, grief stricken and in many cases starving to death.
'In many cases their belongings will have been burned and their parents bodies removed, they are left with nothing but the stigma attached to them and nobody to turn to for help.'
'These children don't exist in a 'system' anywhere, they are abandoned in their communities.'
She said government was managing to reach a few hundred children but the rest were on their own.
'The reality is nothing is reaching the thousands of kids that are outside of this and need help urgently,' she said.
'Street Child wants to do more – reach more children. We want to ensure all vulnerable orphaned children that we know about have enough rice to eat over the Christmas period and beyond this help them re-start a more prosperous life. Yes, West Africa most definitely does know it's Christmas time – when I was in Monrovia last week the city was blaring out the Christmas songs and artificial trees and tacky decorations were being sold on the side of most streets. These kids are facing the loneliest and hardest Christmas they will ever know, Ebola has affected the poorest communities meaning they are struggling more than ever to survive. The families that have taken in orphaned children will be struggling to care for their, now extended, family.
'Beyond the Christmas period we will ensure that each family that has taken in the orphaned children is trained and set up with a grant in a small business so that they can earn enough money.'
There are four ways to give to the Street Child Ebola Orphan Appeal:
* Text Ebola to 70660 to donate £5
* Set up a monthly donation by texting streetchild £3, streetchild £5 or streetchild £10 to 70707
* Donate online at street-child.co.uk/donate
* Or send a cheque or postal order to: Street Child, 42-44 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AH
Source: By Gethin Chamberlain - Daily Mail Online