Teenage girls missing out on school to care for Ebola orphans

Education in emergencies, Girls' education

Thousands of adolescent and teenage girls are missng out on school because they are looking after younger brothers and sister who have been made orphans by the Ebola outbreak.

At least 3700 children in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have lost one or both parents to the deadly virus, according to United Nations figures. Many were single mothers who have left young families.

“Thousands of children are living through the deaths of their mother, father or family members from Ebola,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa.

“These children urgently need special attention and support; yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned,. Orphans are usually taken in by a member of the extended family but in some communities, the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties.”

Koala Oumarou, Country Director of Plan Liberia, said: “Once their mother dies, the orphaned children have to leave school, if they were in school in the first place.

“These girls are now missing out on an education and will essentially become mothers by default. They will end up as teenage mothers even though they started out on a path to a better future.”

Plan International’s website spoke to two 16-year-old girls who lost parents to Ebola. Siah, who is looking after her five-year-old brother and sister aged eight, told Plan: “They called me and told me that my mother was sick, and I was very scared. So I travelled there to help take care of her.

“Sadly, she didn’t make it and she died. I came back with my little sister and my brother. We cry every day and night because of Mama.”

You can donate to Plan’s Ebola outbreak appeal here.

Meanwhile, public and private schools in most parts of Nigeria were due to start the school year today. It had been delayed for weeks after Ebola was brought into the country by a Liberian visitor.  Nigeria has been praised for the way in which its emergency measures prevented a potential outbreak.




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