Every day and night, I sit in my family’s little home in Paynesville, near Monrovia, and watch people from my community cry as their family members are taken away by the National Ebola Task Force to be cremated. They cry that they won’t see their family any more; they won’t even be able to talk about them at their graveside.
As those dead bodies are taken away, I wonder how life will be for their family and mostly, how will their children survive, as most of the victims of Ebola are usually the heads of families. I start to shed tears as I watch those orphaned and semi-orphaned kids suffer from hunger. Other family members fear that those children too may have the virus, and they are left alone to fend for themselves. I try to help with some of the food items we have at home but most often it is far too little to sustain them for even a day.
One family’s tragedy
One situation that occurred in my community led to the death of an entire family that was very close to mine. They were a very peaceful and loving, happy Christian family until a great calamity befell their household.
On that fateful night on 19 September, we listened to the intense cries of the 3-year-old son of Mr and Mrs Cheayan. For over 3 hours little Jimmy cried bitterly with excruciating pain.
It was agreed by the community that little Jimmy should remain locked in the house until the Task Force arrived
My mom decided to go and check out what was going on. She knocked on the door for over 5 minutes but there was no answer, so she decided to call at the window and saw the dead bodies of Mr Cheayan and his wife with little Jimmy standing at their door, crying to enter in. She screamed with tears and started to call for help. When the entire community was awake and aware of the situation, they decided to firstly call in the Ebola Task Force. The doors of the Cheayan’s house remained locked. It was agreed upon by the community that little Jimmy should remain in the house until the Task Force arrived.
5 days waiting
It took 5 days for the Task Force to respond to the call.
For 4 days the life of Jimmy was made miserable up till his death. He didn’t get to eat, sleep nor bathe. He was left in the house all by himself. No one was allowed to go to the house. In fact, the house was immediately chained by the community leadership the next morning after the incident occurred.
All day, all night, little Jimmy was in tears wanting the love and comfort of the arms of his parents. The entire community didn’t want to get involved with an Ebola-related case. It was agonising to watch the death of such a kid as you are helpless to save his life.
The death of little Jimmy hurts me a lot whenever I think that early referral to a medical centre by the Task Force would have saved his life.
People are now afraid and don’t know what to do when their family member falls ill. They were previously advised to call in the Task Force but they don’t know who to trust any more.
Resources are needed to put in place child-friendly care centres for children who lost their parents
Since the death of Jimmy, I along with other young people who work with Plan have been constantly engaging the media, calling on government to improve in their response strategy. We have been calling on them to meet the immediate needs of those children who have lost their parents due to Ebola by providing them with food and non-food items. Resources are needed to put in place child-friendly care centres for children who lost their parents or who have been separated from them due to Ebola. Foster families who take care of orphaned children need to be provided with the necessary economic and psychosocial support.
There should be no children who die of hunger and starvation due to late responses to Ebola.