The raging Ebola crisis in West Africa is having a profoundly distressing and dangerous impact on communities – particularly children – well beyond the effects of the virus itself and which may last for decades to come, according to a major new report from Plan International.
Plan interviewed more than 700 people in urban and rural areas across Liberia for the report, Young Lives in Lockdown, the most comprehensive of its kind yet conducted and which reveals that even families untouched by Ebola itself are facing starvation, isolation and economic ruin.
Children are particularly affected as schools close down and they lose parents and carers, putting them at an increased risk of neglect and abuse. Even more at risk are girls, who may be more likely to be pushed into early marriages or even prostitution.
“This report reveals that even people who have avoided catching Ebola are paying a devastating price for the crisis, and it’s a price that may well be paid across generations and for many years to come,” says Rohan Kent, Disaster Response Manager for Plan International Australia.
“The communities we interviewed reported that they are struggling to feed themselves and their families as food prices soar, are being denied access to lifesaving medicines as the health system buckles beneath them and are seeing their children going without the education they need to guarantee their future,” Kent says.
“Children are being hit the hardest. They cannot go to school, they are no longer being vaccinated and many are being forced to take on the roles of adults long before they are ready, hugely undermining their futures. Some communities reported children being forced onto the streets.”
The report’s findings include:
70 per cent of households say they cannot afford to buy sufficient food as neglected harvests force prices higher. Rice prices, for example, was reported by communities interviewed to have risen by 50 per cent.
There has been an almost complete loss of healthcare for non-Ebola patients, including a virtual end to maternal health services.
The price of medicines, once free from public clinics, have risen to unattainable levels as private distributors replaced closed clinics. Children are no longer being vaccinated.
All schools have closed and no alternatives are commonly available. It is feared that many children may never return to education, with obvious impacts on the life-long prospects of children.
Unemployment and loss of household income are widespread, and communities are losing their ability to provide a secure environment for children.
“The report is a wake-up call for the world. It tells us that it simply is not enough just to address the disease itself. Instead we must see the bigger picture and support those caught up in the dreadful and widespread impact of the Ebola crisis,” Kent says.
“Otherwise, we may find that even when we see an end to this epidemic, the social and economic impact will last generations and condemn one of the world’s poorest regions to generations more of lasting poverty.”
To read and download the report in a full and/or the executive summary, visit: plan-international.org/ebolareport
Australians can give to Plan’s Ebola crisis appeal at plan.org.au/stop-ebola or by ringing 13 75 26.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious or political affiliations.
Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945
Quotes from the report: Young Lives in Lockdown
Plan interviewed more than 700 people in urban and rural areas across Liberia for the report, Young Lives in Lockdown, the most comprehensive of its kind yet conducted.
The following are quotes from children and adults interviewed for the report:
“I have lost everything in my life. I’m so miserable now. Ebola has changed my life,” says a child from Nimba.
Another child from the same county said: “We are now sleeping on the naked floor because the Ebola Task Force burnt down all our belongings”.
“Because our parents don’t have money we are not eating well. Most of us eat once a day and the food is not even enough,” says a child from Montserrado.
“Some of the younger girls will soon start prostitution, because we can’t control the children if we can’t provide for them,” says a mother from Montserrado.
“I am used to being cared for as a child, but I am caring for my young siblings and even for my father, as a mother, since I lost my mother to Ebola,” says a young girl from Nimba.
“I am no longer accepted amongst my friends since I got sick. They no longer visit me to my house as before and when I go to their house their parent will drive me to return home because they said I was sick of Ebola,” says a child.
“I used to go to choir practice every Saturday but since I lost my mother to Ebola, they no longer allow me in their midst. People stigmatise me as if I am responsible for what happen to my mother,” says another child.
“Since this Ebola outbreak in our country, my school has closed. I do not have the freedom any more to be with my friends as I did in the past due to the fear of this sickness. This sickness has brought a total change in my life that makes me to feel sad daily,” says an 18-year-old girl.
“Due to the closure of hospital, I lost my husband from different sickness and he left me without three children with no support,” says a mother from Montserrado.
“We have less food to eat now this year because Ebola have stopped people from making farms and our parents no longer sell like before,” says a child from Nimba.
“We have eaten all of our business money and don’t know where to start again,” says a mother from Montserrado.
“I am used being cared for as a child, but I am caring for my young siblings and even for my father, as a mother, since I lost my mother to Ebola,” says a girl from Nimba.
“My children are not even in school. I am greatly worried about the girls. Some will soon involve themselves in teenage pregnancy,” says a mother from Montserrado.
“We no longer hug our parents and other relatives and friends as we used to do before Ebola,” says a child from Nimba.