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Ebola Update: Sweetie Sweetie Goes Home … but More Children Still Wait

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > Ebola Update: Sweetie Sweetie Goes Home … but More Children Still Wait

Posted on 1/13/2015

We are happy to report that Sweetie Sweetie completed her 21-day quarantine without contracting Ebola and has left ChildFund’s Observation and Interim Care Center in Port Loko, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs has placed her in the care of the health worker who had watched over her in the Ebola Treatment Unit as she waited by her dying mother’s side.

So, she is healthy and well-nourished, and she spends her days playing with other children in the compound where she now lives. She will remain in this foster care arrangement until a closer relative is identified.

Meanwhile, ChildFund continues its work to help other children like her who have lost caregivers to Ebola.

In Liberia, we’ve just helped a fourth batch of children through their 21-day post-exposure quarantine periods before reuniting them with their relatives — a total of 55 children have passed through our Interim Care Center (ICC) since it first opened on Oct. 6.

Ten of the 55 were under age 5. Sadly, eight of them turned out to be positive for Ebola and were immediately referred to the Ebola treatment unit; four of them died. Four other children also took sick with what turned out to be malaria, so they returned to the ICC.

We are also preparing to open four more ICCs in Liberia. The planned five ICCs are fewer than the originally expected eight, but as the infection rate has begun to decline, so has the anticipated need for ICCs. With schools scheduled to reopen in February, the funds that would have been used for the other three ICCs will now go toward working in schools to prevent infection through children’s Ebola clubs, intensive awareness raising on hygiene and hand washing, child-to-child peer education, psychosocial support and stigmatization prevention in the wider community. Says Billy Abimbilla, national director for Liberia and Sierra Leone, “We will work with chiefs, woman leaders, youth leaders — people who are strong voices in their communities.”

In Sierra Leone, which has four ICCs (known there as observation interim care centers—OICCs) and another two almost ready to open and one more planned for February, 189 children have completed their quarantines, with 117 having reunited with family. The remaining children wait in ChildFund-run Interim Care centers (same as Transit centers for Liberia). Four children died from Ebola, and two more from other causes.

“When children first come into the OICCs,” says Abimbilla, “they’re reserved, still getting over it, but after a few days, they get happy — they play. It is restoring their hope and confidence in themselves.

“What inspires me most,” he adds, “is how the ICCs have restored the dignity of these children, most of whom were stigmatized, traumatized and abandoned because communities thought they were infected.

“And it is gratifying to know that the families are eager to take back the children. OICCs have helped children who would be on the streets or treated very unfairly, by getting them back to a home setting that completely accepts them and knows they’re no danger. That is something that inspires me very much. Our OICCs are getting children back into family care.”