Thousands Of Children Orphaned By Ebola Have Been Rejected By Their Relatives And Communities

At least 3,700 children in West Africa have lost one or both parents to Ebola, according to UNICEF.

The Ebola outbreak has left as least 3,700 children orphaned in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, according to UNICEF.

Most of these children, who have lost one or both parents to the deadly virus, are being abandoned and shunned by relatives for fear of infection.

"These children urgently need special attention and support; yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned," said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF regional director for West & Central Africa.

Fontaine said thousands of children "are living through the deaths of their mother, father or family members from Ebola."

Some of them are as young as 3 or 4 years old, the BBC reported.

While orphans are usually taken in by their extended families, Fontaine said "the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties."

The number of children orphaned by Ebola has spiked in the past few weeks and is likely to double by mid-October as the death toll continues to rise.

More than 3,000 people have died in the deadly Ebola outbreak plaguing West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. The crisis is worsening in Sierra Leone, with over 2 million people under quarantine.

The crisis is also taking a heavy emotional toll on children when they or their parents have to be isolated for Ebola treatment, UNICEF said.

UNICEF has appealed for $200 million to provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by Ebola but said it has received only 25% of the amount.

"Ebola is turning a basic human reaction like comforting a sick child into a potential death sentence," said Fontiane.

UNICEF said it is working with authorities in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to help train medical and mental health workers to provide care and support to children who have been rejected by their communities as well as to quarantined children.

The organization said it was also working to reunite separated children with their families. UNICEF will also provide about 60,000 vulnerable children and families in Guinea with psychosocial support.

However, the majority of children affected by Ebola are still without appropriate care, Fontaine said.

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#Ebola is not a death sentence. Follow us for latest on how we're helping children survive like Vandy 7, Sierra Leone

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Children have been found alone in hospitals where their parents died from the disease. Some are fed by neighbors in their communities, but most avoid contact with them, the BBC reported.