Thirteen-year-old little Bendu Dunbar is one of several Ebola orphans around the country, who can look back and say that the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) has indeed left an everlasting scar on them.
The disease attacked Liberia in March 2014 and exposed its already weak or non-existent health care delivery system. Before the outbreak, there were reports in 2013 of one doctor to at least 14,000 Liberians. Out of the 250 registered and licensed doctors for the population of 3.5 million, 175 were Liberians and less than 25 percent of those doctors were specialized.
The EVD killed nearly 10 foreign and Liberian medical doctors, including Dr. Samuel Brisbane, who had more than two decades of practice under his belt.
As people contracted the disease, they began dying in their number. At least 8157 as at January 7, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), have so far contracted the virus in Liberia and 3496 persons have died.
Included in this number, are the relatives of 13-year-old Bendu Dunbar and many other Ebola orphans around the country.
Ms. Dunbar tearfully, told the Daily Observer Wednesday, January 7, how she lost 13 members of her family, including both of her parents.
“My people were just dying one after another,” she narrated sadly, fighting to hold back her tears.
She and her relatives used to live in Dolo Town, one of the hardest hit communities in Margibi County.
Most of whom she lost to the virus were adults. The 13-year-old, a third grader, is one of the six children left behind to fend for themselves if no one or the government steps in to rescue them.
Like Bendu, her siblings and 54 other Ebola orphans with similar stories, they have now been sheltered at the Taffi Dollar Children’s Welfare Center (TDCWC), along the main highway leading up to the Roberts International Airport (RIA), in Margibi. The center is about a mile from the new national cemetery.
The head of the welfare center, Pastor Wilmot B. Yalartai told the Daily Observer how his church had to step in to help cater for the children of those dying from Ebola.
Pastor Yalartai narrated that the wife of a fellow pastor, late Rev. Augustine Zarr, just a stone’s throw from his compound, had contracted the virus and died, leaving the Pastor and kids to struggle, too.
“When I saw this, I said to my church members, we need to do something. I made some research about the virus and we began administering anti-bodies to the Pastor and his kids. We even donated some food so that they could eat at least three times every day,” he narrated. He, however, stated that that pastor died but his kids got well.
According to him, that was the turning point for him and his church—Abundant Life Chapel, which runs the welfare center in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
“We started going to Dolo Town and other places to administer to orphans and their remaining relatives about the love of Christ, telling them that no hope is lost in Him. We also donated food items to them,” Pastor Yalartai, whose facilities have both boys and girls dorms, a high school and others, told this newspaper.
He said after hosting a church service with orphans and surviving relatives mid 2014, some of the surviving relatives, who attended, “begged” for him to take their kids in after seen his facilities and amenities.
“That is how I began taking in the kids. I have space for at least 100 but have so far only been able to take in 60 because of resources problem,” he added.
As he listed the center’s immediate needs, he said budget for sponsorship per month for each of the kids is US$60.
“I also need 30 pieces of laptops for the computer lab and a 15-KVA generator,” he further said.
The center’s school is free for boarding students or orphans and can accommodate at least 300 children from the neighboring communities. It presently has 14 staff, including a nurse, teachers, matron, dean, security and cooks.
He disclosed to this newspaper that since he took in the kids two months ago, it was only last Saturday, January 3, that the government, through the Incident Management System (IMS), gave the center some food, which can carry the center for at least two weeks.
He appealed to international donors, including WFP, UNICEF, Plan International, Save the Children and the Government of Liberia to come and help sponsor the kids.
He also appealed to all international churches, especially the Creflo Dollar Ministries, based in Atlanta, Georgia, which help them construct the facilities to cater for kids.