The Ebola Virus Disease is gone out of Liberia and so seem all of the “good plans” that were crafted by the government of Liberia and its numerous partners in regards to post Ebola recovery plans.
This is especially as it relates to the welfare of worst victims of the crisis, the many survivors and orphans.
Many continue to wonder as to whether the GOL has in place a program intended to cater to the needs of those many children that were made orphans by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), as many of them continue to live at the mercy of good hearted people and humanitarian organizations as well as community members through donations.
The livelihoods of these children are however left at the mercy of people’s goodwill. One of such gestures was when a group of young women under the banner, Unique Sisters, made a donation of assorted food and nonfood materials worth over US$2,000.00 to two Ebola orphans centers in Caldwell and the Red Hill Field in Lower Virginia. The beneficiaries are about sixty children who are resident in the Sis Rebecca Maternity Center in Caldwell and the Red Hill Field Community in Virginia.
Lack of holistic support from government for all of the orphans in the country, inspite of the traumatic conditions that are already enduring, has made these children’s lives more vulnerable, thereby putting their caregivers under intense stress to fend for their livelihoods.
One very typical case in point is a young Liberian nurse, Elizabeth Moses who is catering to about 23 of these children that were recruited from ETUs across Monrovia after being abandoned by family members upon the death of their parents. The youngest of these is about eight months old.
Moses, who converted her mother’s maternity center into a residential area to shelter these children, said she began taking the children in last year after they were being left at the ETU were she was working. Some were abandoned by immediate relatives who were afraid to take them home due to fear of the Ebola stigma. She spoke upon receiving a donation from Unique Sisters.
Ms. Moses indicated that since she took charge of the children, she is yet to receive assistance from the government and has only been supported by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), humanitarian groups and good hearted individuals. She, however, noted that these goodwill gestures are not sustainable.
“To take care of these children, especially providing their basic needs, has not been an easy task, but praise God, we have been resilient and other people are really helping us by making donations including food and other nonfood items,” she said, as she expressed fear that “these are not long-term programs and as such, are not sustainable.
“We want a program that will impact the lives of these kids forever, especially in regards to their education and this is where we want government to step in,” she said.
Liz, as Ms. Moses is affectionately called, noted that feeding the children at times becomes very difficult, especially when their supplies have run out. “Sometimes feeding these children can’t be easy. When supplies finish it can become very difficult for us because we have to buy about eighteen cups of rice daily.”
She, however, called on the government to help the children through the means of a long-term support, which she believes will have a positive impact on the children.
Fortunately for Elizabeth Moses, all of the children of school going ages are in school, thanks to the goodwill of the Indian and Lebanese communities who saw the need to help in that direction. But the biggest question is how long will they be willing to help?
The Caldwell Ebola orphans are not alone in this struggle as many of their peers with the similar fates are also found throughout the country, especially in Foya, Lofa County, which was the epicenter of the crisis. They have been neglected by their government.
These donations are not sustainable because we don’t know when we will receive them again, Ms. Moses feared.
President EJS, on many occasions, especially during visits to Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), promised that GOL and partners would have designed a program that would seek to cater to the social, educational, psychological and basic needs of victims, especially the young ones (orphans), but this is yet to be effected as many of these children remain vulnerable.
President Sirleaf made a similar commitment during a visit to Foya, Lofa County, last year then the epicenter of the outbreak, where the virus left hundreds of children parentless.
Though it is stated that the government, through Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, has a program in place to cater to the physical needs of these children, yet not much is known or heard of, as most of these orphans are yet to benefit the program.
“The government said that it wants to get rid of this orphanage business in this country so they are no longer supporting the children in the orphanages. They are rather trying to unite these kids with their relatives that would take care.
“Financial assistances are provided to these families to take care of the children,” a governmental source, who begged anonymity due to what he termed as lack of sufficient information, told the Daily Observer. The source was, however, unable to disclosed how many of these children are benefitting from this scheme.
The president of Unique Sisters, Marie Kolleh, has called on Liberians to support and empower these children educationally in order to make them better people who will narrate their own positive stories in the future.