A Child Orphaned by Ebola

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Saye was orphaned by the Ebola Virus Disease. He is now temporarily
living in a Child Care Center. (Photo credit: Nurudeen Sanni)


 

After 10-year-old Saye* was orphaned by Ebola, he was sent to a Child Care Center in Unification City, about 40 miles from Monrovia, Liberia. Sixteen of the eighteen children who were initially held there had been reunited with their families. Only Saye and a young girl named Blessing* remained. There was no one to claim them.
 
They are among an estimated 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who have been orphaned by Ebola. Liberia alone has recorded over 2,000 cases of children who have become orphans as a result of the Ebola outbreak.
 
Despite the tragic loss of their parents, Blessing and Saye have so far managed to take control of their fears. During their playtime, they share their stories with each other and during these conversations, amazingly, they discovered they are first cousins.
 
Singing, “this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth...,” Saye goes through his daily routines and seems to have accepted the fact that his parents are gone and that he has to move forward. Saye’s mother reportedly contracted Ebola in New Ganta, and was attended to by Saye’s older sister – who also contracted the virus and died. Saye’s older sister and mother died in front of him.
 
In the face of such an emotional ordeal, Saye believes he survived for a reason. He wears a T-shirt that says, “I'll be famous...." He says he's going to hold onto that T-shirt because he believes he's going to be famous someday, especially after he acquires his education.
 
“I don't want my situation to stop me from what I will do when I grow up,” said Saye. “I will do my best to make my parents proud. And now that I know I have a cousin, I will look after her too. We will stay together and learn together."
 
Since the passing of his parents, Saye often plays with a doll which he named, “God knows," owing to the fact that he believes that God knows about everything he is going through, and that it is only God  who has the answer to his situation.
 
According to Famatta Dunoh, the caretaker at the Child Care Center, Saye is a determined child. “He has shown willingness to learn. He’s very eager to digest everything we teach him, even though he is only a kindergarten student,” exclaimed Famatta.
 
This intrepid spirit, eagerness to learn, and determination, along with the love of caregivers like Famatta and SOS mothers, will mean a way forward for the more than 3,700 West African children who have lost their parents to Ebola.   
 
*To maintain privacy, the children’s names have been changed.