More than 32 children have lost or have been separated from one or both parents due to Ebola since a new outbreak was declared on 1 June in Equateur Province, western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UNICEF said, as the organisation warned that the response urgently needs to be stepped up.
A previous outbreak in Equateur Province in 2018 was brought under control within just two months, thanks to the speed and scale of the response and donor support. However, UNICEF is yet to receive any funding to fight the new outbreak.
UNICEF and partners have assisted 10 children in temporary protection facilities while one or both of their parents undergo screening or treatment in one of the four Ebola treatment centres in the province. However, UNICEF needs urgent support to build nurseries in close proximity of the Ebola treatment centres in order to provide adequate care for separated children.
“As we have seen in previous epidemics, Ebola affects children in a number of ways beyond the immediate risk of infection and death,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF’s Representative in DRC. “Whether children are infected themselves, or see parents or other family members infected, they require specialized care and support, both physically and psychologically. We must do our utmost to minimize the impact of the epidemic on children’s wellbeing.”
The 11th Ebola outbreak to hit DRC since 1976 has so far recorded 62 cases and 27 deaths – including two children. According to UNICEF’s records, more than 20 children between the ages of 2 and 17 years have passed through one of the four treatment centres with suspected or confirmed Ebola in Equateur Province. The children are closely monitored in dedicated areas of the treatment centre, where UNICEF and partners provide nutrition and psychosocial support. In addition, UNICEF has provided community-based care to 10 children under 24 months who have been separated from their parents.
UNICEF urges national partners and international donors to support the Ebola response in Equateur and its work to provide specialized assistance to vulnerable children, as resources are not keeping up with the pace of the epidemic. The response has been hampered by the limited number of organizations on the ground in Equateur, donor fatigue related to Ebola in DRC, and the additional pressure that the growing COVID-19 epidemic is putting on the country’s weakened health system.
UNICEF estimates that US$6.98 million is required for its activities to respond to Ebola in Equateur. UNICEF has advanced US$2 million from its own resources to meet critical needs until additional funding is secured.