Orphans who survived the deadly Ebola virus epidemic in Sierra Leone are said to be living under harsh condition starving to death as a result of harvest shortages while some have taken suicide as an option, others are being forced into the sex industry to pay for food, the dailymail reports.
Researchers from British charity Street Child warn the situation will deteriorate if seeds are not distributed before the rains begin this month and planting becomes possible.
The charity, which has already received distressing reports of children dying due to a lack of food in rural parts on the country, has estimated there to be 12,000 orphans, many of whom are now forced to look after themselves.
Findings by the charity reveal that some children, rejected by their friends because of the stigma of Ebola, have tried to commit suicide, while girls are being forced into the sex industry to earn money to buy food.
Research team leader John Pryor said: ‘Many rural communities which were under quarantine due to Ebola have lost their harvests and the people are truly suffering.
‘As a result they have nothing to plant prior to the rainy season, which is traditionally known as the hunger season.
‘The most vulnerable, including many Ebola orphans, are dangerously hungry already, before it has even begun. Add to this the risk of no harvest to look forward to and the potential consequences are awful.’
Without a harvest, the most vulnerable will starve. This was the case for Ibrahim, 13, and Aminata, 10, in Kigbal in the rural Port Loko district.
They lost both parents to the Ebola virus and were quarantined for two back-to-back periods of 21 days.
Their uncle, Mohammed Lamin, lost his harvest during the quarantine and struggled to feed the pair.
He said: ‘In the month and a half once the children were out of quarantine I tried to give them the little food I had to feed them but they refused.
‘They were too traumatised and the food I could afford was not good. I lost my farm during the quarantine and so I could not offer them much. I had to split the food between them and my own three children.
‘Ibrahim and Aminata became thinner and thinner, when they cried for food I had to tell them to wait, to hold on just a little longer.
‘In February, Ibrahim lost his life, Aminata died a week later; they were victims of hunger and trauma because of this Ebola virus.’
Ibrahim and Aminata were survived by two siblings, Jane, 8, and Fatamata, 3, who were living in another village with their elder sister when the pair died.
Weeks later they returned to Kigbal having lost their elder sister to the Ebola virus.
They too now suffer the effects of malnutrition, eating only one meal a day, funded by their uncle’s wood chopping business.
In a joint statement, Street Child chief executives Tom Dannatt and Kelfa Kargbo, said: ‘This is an incredibly worrying situation. It is very late but it is not yet too late.
‘We urge large organisations on the ground in Sierra Leone to act now. Give, or lend, farmers seed. And we beg donor support to Street Child – big or small.
‘We have a large rural distribution network capable of making a big difference – now. If we can put seed in the hand of farmers they can still get it into the ground in time to have a harvest to look forward to in October.
‘These families can then have a chance of feeding themselves and even the hope of ‘extras’ such as affording school costs for their children.
‘We are especially determined to see every orphan family that needs seed supported; that is the least we can do. But, to be honest, that is only the tip of this wider issue.’
In the past week in Guinea and Sierra Leone, there have been 35 new reported Ebola cases, four times as many as the week before, according to the World Health Organization.
The 35 cases in the week to May 17 were in six districts of Guinea and Sierra Leone, with most in Guinea. Liberia was declared Ebola-free earlier this month.