The deadly Ebola virus has taken the lives of more than 500 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Save the Children said today, with the number of deaths accelerating over the past six months. In total, around 737 children have been infected with the disease since Ebola surfaced in the DRC.
Today's figures show how the spread of the disease has accelerated: in the first six months after August 1st 2018, just under 100 children died of Ebola. In the six months that followed, over four times as many children lost their lives.
Heather Kerr, Save the Children's Country Director in DRC, said:
"This is another grim milestone in a crisis that is devastating children in its path, especially the youngest. Some 40% of children who have contracted the disease are under the age of five, and many of them have died.
"The spread of Ebola is having a wider impact on children as well; because of the high fatality rate in this outbreak, thousands of children have lost at least one of their parents to the disease or have been separated from their parents.
"The virus puts children at risk of being stigmatised, isolated or abandoned, in addition to suffering the unbearable trauma of losing a loved one. Children who are on their own face the very real danger of all kinds of abuse and exploitation, or of being recruited by armed groups. Children aren't going to school because their parents have died and those taking care of them can't afford the school fees, or schools are closing due to insecurity.
"The virus has been speeding up over the last six months instead of slowing down, and we're seeing a bad scenario unfolding right in front of us, as there are now four cases in Goma, a city of more than one million people.
"The WHO declared this an emergency of international concern, and that should really mean the international community steps up its support. Contacts of the sick need to be traced, patients need to be looked after, the dead need to be buried safely and above all, trust needs to be built with the communities so that the message that Ebola is very real, and that it kills, is understood."