Walk through our village community in the Liberian city of Monrovia, and you will meet some of the youngest survivors of the Ebola outbreak which ravaged the country five years ago. Almost half the children being raised there lost their parents to the virus.
Children like Alphia*, who was just six years old when she lost her mother to Ebola.
Thankfully, she and her baby brother Morgan were welcomed into the family of SOS mother Waletor. A devoted carer, Waletor is also raising two other children who lost their parents in the crisis - six-year-old Ishmael and eight-year-old Becky – alongside her biological son.
“Alphia was so sad when she joined the family,” Waletor remembers. “Her eyes were always fixed on Morgan as if she were having a silent conversation with him, and she was so tired from crying and refusing food.
“This poor child had witnessed so much pain and suffering. I was broken-hearted for her – but it motivated me. I had to make sure the children found happiness again.”
For the first few weeks Alphia showed no interest in the people around her, or in any games. She would stand in the corner and sob quietly, refusing to eat or speak, and she developed a terror of closed doors. At night, she would sleepwalk or wet the bed.
To calm her, Waletor made sure her daughter received all the reassurances and extra support she needed, and constantly reminded Alphia that she was in a safe place with people who cared about her. Alphia’s SOS psychologist also made regular home visits to help the little girl process her grief and fear.
“Alphia was in a dark place and I needed to draw her out – win her trust and be her friend,” Waletor tells us. “Every day I would have conversations with her, even though she would not talk back, and tell her stories with all my children gathered around. Eventually, one day, she smiled. And weeks later, when I was dancing around the living room because one of the other children had received a good school report, she broke into genuine laughter.
“Three months later, out of nowhere, Alphia told me she had a story to tell. You can imagine my shock – though I didn’t show it. This was the first time I had heard her speak! I was very happy that day.”
These days, Alphia’s warm and bubbly personality shines through for everyone to see, and she has unveiled a beautiful singing voice. When she isn’t performing in the choir, Alphia can usually be found in the play area, competing with the other children to see who can skip the fastest. If her proud SOS mother is to be believed, she always wins.
This story was taken from our supporter magazine, Family Matters
*Names changed to protect identities
The 2014 Ebola outbreak remains the worst in history. By the time the WHO declared the emergency over the following year, 30,000 people had lost their lives. Thousands of children were left orphaned or abandoned because of stigma against survivors of the virus. Our health centre was the only clinic in Monrovia which remained open to the public during the epidemic and helped slow the spread of the virus by raising awareness of preventive measures and good hygiene practices.
Now five years later, children in the DRC and Uganda are facing yet another deadly outbreak. 2,500 people have so far been infected in a year-long outbreak in the DRC. Through our family strengthening programmes we are supporting affected communities in Liberia and other countries where the virus is destroying lives. We place high importance on preventative and awareness measures to halt the spread of the disease and are monitoring the situation in West Africa closely.
With your support, we will continue to be there for children like Alphia for as long as they need us. Make a donation or sponsor a child today.
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