As the fight against the Ebola epidemic continues to grip Liberia, there is one thing that seems to be forgotten.
That thing, according the National Children and Youth Advisory Board (NCYAB), has to do with the fate of children whose parents died from epidemic.
NCYAB, through its national chairman, Henry Bunch Garneo, II, said it is documenting abnormalities within the Ebola crisis, paramount among them being the welfare of children who have been victimized by the pandemic.
This grave issue has caught our attention and must be addressed by government and partners as the situation is now worsening beyond control, Mr. Garneo said.
NCYAB is a vibrant child rights advocacy group established by Defence for Children-Liberia (DCI-Liberia), with funding from Plan Liberia. Its principal objective is to combat all forms of violence against children in Liberia.
At a press conference at DCI-Liberia’s office over the weekend, Mr. Garneo said While it is true that we have joined forces with government to kick Ebola out of Liberia, we are also documenting abnormalities within the crisis which include a gross violation of children’ rights.
He indicated that there are children who have been made orphans and semi orphans and some have even been neglected by their communities and relatives as a result of the stigma of Ebola.
“Currently, there are numerous cases of such in and around Montserrado County and other places. In Grand Cape Mount County, Tewor district, Bellaja to be specific, there is a child who has been neglected due to the death of both parents from Ebola,”
“Also in Bensonville, specifically Low Coast Village, there is a similar case. In Tubmanburg, Bomi County, there is a child who died of starvation indoors because she was perceived to be have contracted the various from her parents who died from the virus,” the NCYAB boss said.
We as a child rights institution would like to know what special package or alternative care does government have in store for those kids?
“Where does the fate of these children lie now? Government should now begin to take ownership of these children. They are Liberians despite the situation. Like us, these are the future leaders of this country and they must be given the needed attention during this difficult period,” he said.
Mr. Garneo, however, proffered what he termed as strongly recommendation to government: that children in this category and others who are either sick or dead due to Ebola be documented nationwide.
He called for the establishment of safe homes for the abandoned children to be taken to, with the provision of comprehensive psychosocial packages i.e., (food and non-food items) to meet their immediate needs.
“Additionally, we call on government and other national and international partners to provide some economic support to foster families and/or relatives who are willing to accommodate those children, taking into consideration the nature of their cases as it relates to stigmatization.
“Moreover, we would like the government and its partners to adopt a holistic approach to responding to the needs of families that are affected by the virus: that is, to ensure the provision of health, psychosocial and educational needs of those families. We strongly recommend the provision educational materials to children of the above category to help them maintain their academic pace and prevent them from being bored or ostracized.
Similar concern about Ebola orphans’ welfare were also raised recently by Physician Assistant Kandy Kobah, an Ebola survivor, who was released from the Ebola Treatment Unit at the ELWA Hospital. She spoke with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about this matter.
There are several Ebola orphans at the ELWA’s ETU.
Mr. Garneo expressed the NCYAB’s regret over the death of kids who died from Ebola, and most especially about the death of Shakie Kamara, the 16 year-old by who died on August 21 from gunshot wounds.
“We are constrained to frown upon this barbaric act and to condemn it in the strongest terms possible.”
Mr. Garneo said the killing of Kamara is inhumane and unjustifiable, and it is a gross violation of Article 5 and 6 of the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child (ACRWC) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), respectively.
“We call on the international community to probe into this matter in order to serve justice over the death of our comrade! We say rest in peace, little Shakie Kamara, and others till we meet again in glory on the Day of Judgment.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Garneo is calling on government for the establishment of more Ebola testing and treatment centers in isolated communities around the country in order help curb to spread of this dreadful epidemic.
He noted that the fight against Ebola is a national fight and thus demands the collective efforts of all Liberians in combating the deadly killer virus.
He also said NCYAB has staged series of community awareness programs, sensitizing community dwellers on Ebola and its preventive methods in Peace Island and Whein town, to name a few.
“We hope and pray that tranquility will soon be restored in the Mano River basin, and that Liberians will soon be free to move about their normal activities. Meanwhile, please take all precautionary methods seriously in order to keep safe,” he concluded.