New UN report highlights &#39terrifying&#39 impact of Ebola on nine million children

17 March 2015 – Some nine million children have seen &#8220death and suffering beyond their comprehension,&#8221 and protecting them and their communities is critical in the fight against Ebola in West Africa, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a report released today.

UNICEF said the report, which was released in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, Geneva, and New York, &#8220looks at the dramatic impact Ebola has had on children as it hit some of the most vulnerable communities in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.&#8221

Of the more than 24,000 people infected, some 5,000 are children, while more than 16,000 children have lost one or both parents or their primary caregiver, according to UNICEF.

&#8220For many of the nine million children living in affected areas, Ebola has been terrifying,&#8221 the agency said. &#8220These children have seen death and suffering beyond their comprehension.&#8221

The report also points to the central role communities are playing in the response and shows encouraging trends in safe behaviours.

&#8220In Liberia, for example, a survey indicates that 72 per cent of people believe anyone with Ebola symptoms will get better care at a treatment centre, which is significant because many used to keep Ebola victims at home, spreading infection in the community,&#8221 according to the agency.

The report’s release comes days after the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said Liberia reported no new confirmed cases for the second consecutive week from the disease that has affected more than 24,000 people with more than 10,000 deaths.

&#8220The outbreak will not be over until there are zero cases, and every single contact has been traced and monitored. We cannot afford to let our guard down,&#8221 Barbara Bentein, UNICEF’s Global Emergency Coordinator for Ebola, said in a press release.

&#8220At the same time, basic services need to be re-established safely and responsibly, using the assets of the response,&#8221 she added.

UNICEF, which helped minimize the risk of Ebola infections when schools reopened following months of closures that left 5 million children out of school, noted that investing in improving health care systems in Ebola-affected countries will help tackle other diseases such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea, which take a heavy toll on children.