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28/1/2016 - RMG - Post-Ebola: the social situation and the Salesian response

(ANS - Rome) – On 14 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the Ebola epidemic that had plagued West Africa since 2014. "All known chains of transmission have ceased." Yet, not even 24 hours later, in Sierra Leone the death of a woman from Ebola was confirmed.

Undoubtedly, the resurgence of some outbreaks was foreseen by the WHO, and consequently in the countries where the epidemic had broken out (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea) the level of care was still very high. But the real problem right now is not a resumption of infections, but rather the situation that the virus leaves behind in the three countries.

In two years Ebola caused 11,316 confirmed deaths out of a total of 28,638 cases. The World Bank has estimated the loss in GDP for the three countries at $2.2 billion. Sierra Leone has suffered a severe recession due to the difficulties experienced in key sectors of its economy, especially agriculture and mining. Guinea and Liberia have seen their business severely reduced because of closed borders and the fear of investing on the part of foreign entrepreneurs.

And the problems are not limited to deaths and.economic damage.  The aftermath of Ebola is seen in the entire social fabric. In Sierra Leone alone there are about 12,000 children orphaned by the virus.  There has been an increase in child abuse and in the number of teenage pregnancies. Hundreds of children have been accused of witchcraft and were blamed for the deaths of their family members, and so on.

That is why now it is even more necessary to work for the healthy and harmonious development of young people in those countries. They are the ones who will shape the reconstruction. "We need psychologists, therapists and social workers in the socio-therapeutic area, offering holistic assistance to children and adolescents who have been traumatized" Salesian Brother Lothar Wagner said already a year ago.  Bro. Lothar works with the NGO "Don Bosco Fambul” in Freetown.

A child cured from Ebola is not necessarily a healthy baby. He or she still needs care, support and help ...  especially if the child is left without parental affection and has been deprived of his or her childhood by Ebola.

All thorough the time of the epidemic the Salesians of West Africa cared for and helped children affected by Ebola through numerous programmes, projects and specially designated buildings. And that's what they will continue to do with even more enthusiasm now, with the personal encouragement of the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime.

Published 28/01/2016

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