Charles, now aged 18 months, lost both of his parents to Ebola in August 2013. One week later, the deadly virus claimed the lives of Charles's three brothers and one of his sisters. His uncle and auntie were also infected and died.
For three months, Charles was observed at a Medical Centre to ensure he didn't have Ebola himself. Test after test returned with a negative result, indicating he was free of the virus. Two of Charles's sisters contracted the virus, but unlike other family members, they survived.
“We lost eight of our family members. It was a big blow to the family. My sister Memunatu also lost her husband to Ebola. We have lost our entire family,” says 23-year-old Mabinty, one of Charles's surviving sisters.
Temporary care for Charles
Like many other children orphaned or abandoned as a result of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Charles didn't have any relatives or neighbours willing to care for him. This is often due to the stigmatisation of Ebola orphans, as well as reasons of poverty. Charles was therefore taken to an Interim Care Centre, which is run with support from SOS Children.
Fatamah, one of the nurses at the centre, says, "All of Charles's basic needs were met. Everybody was fond of him. I did everything to make him cheerful. And indeed Charles started smiling again."
The Interim Care Centre filled up quickly, with many children in need of shelter. To make room for new orphans, Charles was discharged.
At the time, our Children's Villages were not able to accept Ebola orphans inside their grounds. “It was too dangerous to do,” explains Olatungie Woode, National Director in Sierra Leone. This is because there had been cases of children dying a few months after an Ebola test proved negative.“Based on this uncertainty, SOS couldn't have taken this risk which could have created a bigger problem for an entire SOS Children's Village.”
With no one else able to care for him, Fatamah, a nurse from the Interim Care Centre, offered to look after Charles, where he stayed until last month.
A permanent loving home
On Friday 23rd January, Charles' life was transformed. By then, SOS Children had set up a framework for admitting children who had lost one or both parents to Ebola – and Charles was one of the first Ebola orphans to benefit from it.
Along with three other children, Charles was welcomed into SOS Children's Village Makeni. On the day of their arrival, SOS mothers and children gathered to give a warm reception, and sang welcoming songs.
All four children – Charles, Lamia, Kadia and Rania – will be cared for by SOS mother Mabinty Mansaray. “I was excited to receive the children with an open heart. I will give them the best care and protection they deserve. It's a big challenge for me and I have to prove myself,” she says.
Commitment to children affected by Ebola
“This is not the last admission of Ebola-orphaned children in SOS Children's Village Makeni,” says Olatungie, our National Director. SOS Children's Villages in Freetown and Bo will also accept Ebola orphans in the near future.
Richard Pichler, CEO of SOS Children's Villages International says:
“As the Ebola epidemic appears to ebb, much of the world has turned its attention elsewhere. But enormous challenges remain. More than 10,000 children have lost one or both parents to the virus. They are often shunned by their communities because of the fear and stigma associated with the disease.
SOS Children’s Villages Sierra Leone has already begun taking in such children, offering them a caring, loving home – to which they, like all children, have a right. This underscores SOS Children’s Villages’ long-term commitment, in line with its fundamental values, to the children affected by Ebola.”
Thank you for supporting our Ebola appeal and helping orphans like Charles to grow up in a loving family home with all they need to thrive.
Learn more about sponsoring an orphaned or abandoned child in Africa.