Children orphaned by Ebola find themselves shunned by family, friends

Children orphaned by Ebola find themselves shunned by family, friends
(Image credit: Twitter.com/laprensa)

In Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, more than 3,700 children have lost one or both of their parents to Ebola, and the U.N. children's agency believes that by mid-October that number will likely double.

The children are often ostracized by their extended families and neighbors, who are terrified of getting Ebola. They live alone in the homes where their parents died, and oftentimes teenage orphans end up caring for their younger siblings. In Monrovia, Liberia, that's what Promise Cooper is now doing, following the death of her mother, father, and infant brother from the virus.

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Promise told The Associated Press that as word spread through the area that her parents had Ebola, visits from family and friends stopped. She tried to sell water to earn money for her family, but no one would buy any. Vendors wouldn't serve her in the local markets, and neighborhood children refused to play with her younger brothers and sister. Promise became depressed, and the children, still dealing with their grief, would cry for their mother at night.

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The Cooper family finally found an ally in town: Kanyean Molton Farley, a human rights researcher who went around the St. Paul Bridge community to document how many children have become orphans due to Ebola (he's counted 28). Farley worried about the Coopers — they had no money, and he was afraid older men might try to prey on 16-year-old Promise — and began to make daily visits. Recently, one relative has come forward to check in on the children. Helen Kangbo was away from Monrovia when her brother and sister-in-law died, and because she has started to visit her nieces and nephews, other members of the family won't go near her. "I have to come back because everyone has abandoned them," she told AP. "I must have the courage to come."

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