On November 7th, 2015, the World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone free of Ebola. Thousands gathered for a candlelight ceremony at midnight the day before, thanking God, praying and praising Him for the end of an 18- month scourge, which had claimed so many lives and devastated the country's economy. That Saturday morning was a day Sierra Leone will remember for years to come. There was jubilation and relief, but in the midst of the jubilation, there was also great sadness for about 4,000 lives lost to Ebola, including those of 221 healthcare workers.
As Sierra Leone celebrates, another tragedy is unfolding, the plight of thousands of "Ebola Orphans" left behind. Across West Africa, it is estimated that about 25,000 children have lost either one or both parents to the Ebola infection. Sierra Leone has about 16,000 "Ebola Orphans". Unfortunately, contrary to our normal African tradition, some extended family members are unwilling to take in children of their deceased relatives, due to the stigma of the Ebola infection. Ebola survivors and orphans are usually shunned by relatives, neighbors and friends.
This Christmas season, I am bringing awareness of the plight of these orphans to the ACF community. As one of our core values is "Reconnecting with the Continent", I am calling on all ACF members to consider giving a monetary gift to ACF, for the care of children who have been orphaned by the recent Ebola scourge. These children need all the basic necessities of life---housing, clothing, food and tender care. They also need to continue their education, so money is needed for books, stationery, school uniforms and school fees. They may sometimes fall sick and will need medical attention.
Perhaps some of us may consider sponsoring a kid or two for several months or years. Some may consider "adopting" an orphan, providing for their needs from now through college or high school. ACF has identified an orphanage in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where Ebola orphans are cared for. It has an integrated school for the children. It costs about $30.00 a month to provide basic life necessities and education for a child.
Remember what the scripture says, "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." -James 1:27 NLT
Dr. Joyce Olutade