Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Ebola survivor turned carer for orphaned children

As the number of diagnosed Ebola cases nears 9,000, with 4,493 deaths recorded, ChildFund Liberia continues to assist children orphaned by the virus.

For the next three days (until Oct. 20), you can listen to a BBC interview (go to the 44-minute mark) with Billy Abimbilla, national director of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Ebola survivor and volunteer Decontee Davis about the Interim Care Centre started for Liberian children affected by the deadly virus. It’s a remarkable story, and Billy reports that Liberians are volunteering to foster and adopt children orphaned by Ebola.

Billy told BBC that the centre has taken in children ranging in age from teenagers down to a two-week-old orphan.

“The situation is grim on the ground and a lot of people are getting infected,” Billy said. “Many others are dying from the infection. As a child protection agency, we are moved by what we see in children €“ the way they suffer, the way they are stigmatised, sometimes abandoned by their communities and relatives. That gives us the motivation to see what we can do for such unfortunate children.”

Asked what kind of support ChildFund is providing for these children, he said: “We make the house in which they stay child-friendly. We have recreational activities, such as toys, see-saws, swings. We have footballs and play materials, children`s reading materials. So they occupy themselves with these activities.

“As part of the activities at the Interim Care Centres, we also try and do psychosocial counselling with these children so they can get over the stress and trauma. And if we find foster parents for them, we follow up and give some support in terms of counselling for the foster parents, and continue with psychosocial support for the children. This will take some time for them to get over because of what they have gone through.”

The centre relies on volunteers such as 23-year-old Decontee Davis, who contracted Ebola while caring for her fiancee`s aunt. After very nearly dying she pulled through and her experience made her determined to help these orphaned children.

“I can take good care of them because I`m no longer vulnerable to the disease,” Decontee said. “I decided to work [at the centre], take them on as my own. I recognise them as my own children. As long as the kids are there, I will continue to work with them.”

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