Sunday September 22, 2019

Children Orphans by Ebola in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Doubles

The U.N. children's fund reports the number of children orphaned by Ebola or separated from their parents because of the disease

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FILE - Two-month-old Lahya Kathembo, whose mother and father died of Ebola, is carried by a nurse waiting for test results at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, DRC, July 17, 2019. VOA

The U.N. children’s fund reports the number of children orphaned by Ebola or separated from their parents because of the disease in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has more than doubled since April.

Since the epidemic was declared more than one year ago, aid agencies have registered 1,380 children who have lost one or both parents to Ebola. During the same period, nearly 2,470 children have been separated from parents undergoing treatment for the disease or isolated because they have come in contact with an infected person.

World Health Organization figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2,831, including nearly 1,900 deaths. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says more children are getting sick and dying in this epidemic than in previous ones.

“In this epidemic, about 30 percent of the cases are among children, whereas in previous epidemics, the proportion was about 20 percent,” Mercado  said. “As of the fourth of August, there were 787 children below 18 who were infected with Ebola and there have been 527 deaths.”

Children, Orphans, Ebola
FILE – Health workers begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 16, 2019. VOA

Mercado says the children are under enormous stress and need extensive physical, psychosocial and social care. Given the more than doubling of children in need, she says these specialized services must be urgently scaled up, especially in Beni, where the largest number of children are affected.

“For children with no surviving parents, the needs are longer term,” she said. “The teams work to place children with relatives or foster families, which is not easy given the economic burden of raising extra children and the fear of catching the disease or being associated with it. It often requires delicate mediation, as well as financial support for food, school fees and other basic necessities.”

The work being done by psychosocial assistants is critical because stigma against Ebola orphans is pervasive, Mercado told VOA. She added that children who have been in contact with someone infected with the virus often are rejected by families and communities who believe they will become sick.

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This, she said, is when social workers step in to convince these people they have nothing to fear and that providing loving care for the children will help them thrive. (VOA)

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By 2030, African Children to Make ‘Half of the World’s Poor’

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030

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Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
The United Nations reports more than a half million refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape the ravages of war. Wikimedia Commons

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030, according to a new report.

The stark warning comes as more than 150 world leaders prepare to attend the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in New York beginning Sept. 25 to work on tackling global poverty.

The United Nations has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No. 1 on the list is eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. But the world will fall well short of that target, according to the report by Save the Children and the Overseas Development Institute, which delivers a devastating verdict on global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty among children in Africa.

“On our projection, children in Africa will account for around 55% of all extreme poverty in the world by 2030,” said Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK.

An estimated 87 million African children will be born into poverty each year in the 2020s, according to the report, which also says about 40% of Africans still live on less than $1.90 a day.

Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
Children recovering from malnutrition play at the Children hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic. VOA

“On average, women are still having four to five children, and it’s the part of the world where poverty is coming down most slowly, partly because of slow growth but also because of very high levels of inequality,” Watkins said. “A child born into poverty faces greater risks of illiteracy; greater risks of mortality before the age of 5. They’re between two and three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday. They are far less likely to escape poverty themselves, which means that they will become the transmission mechanism for poverty to another generation.”

The report criticizes African governments for failing to develop coherent policies, and also warns that the IMF, the World Bank and other donors are failing in their response.

ALSO READ: World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

Watkins said dramatic changes in approach are urgently needed.

“Transferring more monetary resources to children who are living in poverty has to be part of the solution,” Watkins said. “But we also know that money is not enough. It’s critically important that these children get access to basic nutritional services, the basic health interventions, and the school systems that they need to escape poverty.”

The report warns that if poverty reduction targets are not met, the world will also fall short on other sustainable development goals in education, health and gender equality. (VOA)