Restoring hopes of Ebola-orphaned children
Sierra Leone is still emerging from the deadly Ebola outbreak that claimed thousands of lives, further weakened Sierra Leone fragile social support system and left many orphans — who now face challenges leading a normal life. They receive support at a local, WFP-supported NGO, the Variety Children and Family Services center. Since August 2015, the center has placed 275 children in foster and 29 in boarding schools.
WFP assistance to Variety children and family services center and 13 other centers aims to meet the basic food and nutrition needs of orphans and vulnerable children some of whose parents or caretakers died of Ebola.
SAHR, 11 YEARS OLD
Eleven year-old Sahr dreams of becoming a government minister to help his people and country. He knows what it’s like to overcome challenges; Sahr’s father abandoned his mother when he was a small boy. “My mother found it difficult to look after me so I was brought to this center,” says Sahr. Sahr is a victim of the socio-economic impact of Ebola which crippled the economy, increased food insecurity and the hardships experienced by many families.
DAUDA, 10 YEARS OLD
Dauda, 10, likes to play football. His dream when he grows up, he says, is to be “a Man of God” and preach the Lord’s word. Dauda was sent to live with a family in the capital Freetown by his mother from Gbomotor village in Moyamba district to continue his schooling. But they abused him and he was made to sell water in the streets. The work also made him late for school, and he was eventually thrown out when he could not pass his exams. “I was living on the streets after leaving home. A man picked me up from the streets and took me to the Ministry of Social Welfare”, Dauda lamented. It is not uncommon for families in the rural areas to send their children to the cities to attend school, who sometimes end up being used as domestic slaves and eventually end up on the streets.
ABDUL-RAHMAN, 10 YEARS OLD
Life for ten-year-old Abdul-Rahman has also not been easy. After his parents died of Ebola, he was looked after by his uncle who promised to send him to school but instead he was made to sell water on the streets. After running awry, he was beaten and molested.
“Getting food then was a problem,” Abdul-Rahman said. “Now I don’t think about where the next meal comes from.”
Today thanks to the support of Variety Children, Abdul Rahman is undaunted…He wants to be a bank manager when he grows up.
SUSAN, 17 YEARS OLD
Seventeen-year-old Susan was once a resident at the Variety Children and Family Services center but now attends the Magbeni boarding school in Port Loko. She is on mid-term break but has decided to come back to the center. She still misses the food support she received from WFP.
Children eating a hearty meal at the Variety Children and Family Services center. WFP’s food basket includes cereals, beans, vegetable oil, salt and Supercereal, a blended nutritious food, to provide the children with three meals a day.
Volunteers like Mariama Massaquoi (in green and blue) play a vital role at the Variety Children and Family Services Center. With support from WFP and the Ministry of Social Welfare, they organize cooking, cleaning and counseling services for Ebola orphans and other traumatized and vulnerable children.
FOOTNOTES: Story and photos: WFP/Francis Boima