What Is Ebola? How Did Ebola Affect Children and Their Families? What SOS Children’s Villages Did to Help What Is Ebola? The Ebola virus is a severe, often fatal disease that has a death rate of up to 90 percent. Since the virus was first identified in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there have been a number of outbreaks in Africa but none nearly as devastating as the last outbreak that killed more than 10,000 people. Since the first case of the newest outbreak was identified in March 2014, there have been more than 24,000 cases of infections reported—virtually all of them in Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia. How Did Ebola Affect Children and Their Families? A startling consequence of the Ebola outbreak was the nearly 17,000 children who have lost either a parent or a caregiver. The outbreak also exacted a crippling toll on the economies and healthcare systems of the three countries, which were mired in poverty before the Ebola outbreak. The epidemic led to increased poverty, food shortages, lack of drinkable water and limited access to medical centers—many of which were shut down to avoid spreading the disease. In addition, the heads of state of all three countries issued a nationwide closure of schools in March 2014, leading kids to be held out of class for at least five months. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone reopened schools, however, many parents were hesitant to send their kids back to class given the widespread fear that being in a large group setting would cause their children to contract the disease. What SOS Children’s Villages Did to Help SOS Health Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia - Photo credit: Daniel van Moll Across the three Ebola-affected countries, SOS Children’s Villages is currently helping to raise more than 800 children among eight different villages. Once we ensured the safety of the children and staff within our villages, we helped support the local communities. In Sierra Leone, for example, we evaluated the needs of children orphaned by Ebola, welcoming some into our villages and providing others with food, medical care and psychological support. In addition, when Sierra Leone shut down schools last September, we provided home study materials to the more than 2,000 students who attend our six schools in Makeni, Bo and Freetown. In Monrovia, Liberia, we run a medical center that is among the few health facilities in the country that remained open to treat non Ebola-related patients during the outbreak. At the height of the Ebola epidemic, our medical staff at the center—which we established in 2005 and is open 24/7—were treating more than 50 patients per day. Also in Liberia, we partnered with the German government to alleviate the water crisis by digging wells in 10 different public schools in Monrovia, providing more than 5,000 students with drinking water that they otherwise wouldn’t have.