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Orphans Abandoned, Shunned in Africa’s Ebola Crisis

A girl carries a child as they walk back from school during a rain shower in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus is believed to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea and may already have spread to neighboring Liberia, health officials said Monday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A girl carries a child as they walk back from school during a rain shower in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. An outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus is believed to have killed at least 59 people in Guinea and may already have spread to neighboring Liberia, health officials said Monday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Sheilia Passewe, Special for USA TODAY

 

MONROVIA, Liberia (USA Today) — Ever since Frank Mulbah’s mother died of Ebola in August, no one will go near him.

“I went to my relatives after my mother died, but they chased me away, even after I told them that I didn’t have Ebola,” said Frank, 12, who tested negative for Ebola at the hospital where his mother died.

As Ebola continues its rampage across Liberia and elsewhere in West Africa, thousands of children are taking a double hit: losing parents to the fatal virus and then being shunned by relatives who fear they will catch the disease.

The United Nations estimates the virus has orphaned nearly 4,000 children across the region, and that number could double in coming weeks. Aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, fear the orphans are at risk of starvation and disease.

The children also could pose a risk to others by spreading the disease if they are allowed to roam free without being tested for the virus.

Most children orphaned by Ebola are tested and found to be free of the virus, said Laurence Sailly, a coordinator of an Ebola Treatment Center here run by Doctors Without Borders. But some are not tested.

“These children are supposed to be quarantined for 21 days before they are declared Ebola-free,” she said. “But this does not take place because there’s not enough facilities to cater to these children.”

 

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