Waletor with her family
Ebola – 17 January 2019

Two siblings find happiness after losing their parents to Ebola

Becky* and Ishmael* play happily with their SOS mother and siblings in the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia in Liberia. It is easy to forget the circumstances that took them there more than three years ago, after losing their parents during the Ebola outbreak – yet the spectre of the disease still lingers in the region.

Becky, now 8, and Ishmael, 6, lost their parents during the largest outbreak of Ebola in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 28,000 Ebola cases were reported and at least 11,000 people died.

The siblings arrived at the SOS Children’s Village in late 2015 as part of a larger group of children whose parents died after contracting the Ebola virus. Fortunately not infected, Becky and Ishmael were two out of 70 children who joined an SOS family. Their SOS mother Waletor had only recently joined SOS Children’s Villages Liberia in 2015 when she began caring for them.

“My supervisor, the mothers, the village… everybody was kind of keeping a close watch to see how I was handling this situation,” recalls Waletor.

Recent outbreak of Ebola virus

The latest major outbreak of the Ebola virus since the 2014-2016 crisis recently struck Central Africa. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), there have been nearly 400 confirmed cases of the Ebola virus between August and December, with over 200 recorded deaths, according to the World Health Organisation. The outbreak is concentrated in the DRC’s north-eastern Kivu and Ituri provinces.

SOS Children’s Villages DRC promotes good hygiene at its Villages and runs community programmes to thwart the spread of the Ebola virus and other diseases.

Past experience in Liberia

During the 2014-2016 crisis, SOS Children’s Villages provided on the ground support for medical workers and the local community, in addition to working to keep children and families in SOS programmes safe from the disease.

The SOS Medical Centre in Monrovia, Liberia, was one of very few health facilities in the country that was continuously operating throughout the Ebola outbreak. SOS Children’s Villages provided the centre‘s staff with protective suits so they could stay open. The centre treated more than 2,200 survivors of Ebola and children with post-Ebola health complications.

As quarantined communities could not leave their homes to work or purchase essential supplies, SOS Children’s Villages provided food, clothing and psychosocial support to over 300 families affected by Ebola. SOS Children’s Villages Liberia also offered vocational trainings to over 600 Ebola survivors, so they would be able to support their families after the outbreak. Ongoing care was also offered to children affected by the crisis.

A close family

Back in the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia, Becky and Ishmael have settled well into their new family. They have eight SOS brothers and sisters, including Waletor’s biological child. Together, the family has learned to care for each other, Waletor says.

“I’m not sure exactly how they are so connected, but I think they may have found something in common that binds them together so tightly,” adds Waletor. “Becky, for example, has learned to give to people, especially those in need. She is special.”

*Name changed for privacy protection

Learn more about our work in Liberia.