Groups: Sierra Leone's children exploited due to Ebola outbreak

2015-06-17 13:49

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Cape Town - Sierra Leone's children have been exploited and violated since an Ebola epidemic hit the west African nation and caused the country's social fabric to rupture, aid organisations said Wednesday.

Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision International, who interviewed more than 1 100 children across the country about the impact of Ebola, found that child labour and exploitation increased because schools were closed for nine months during the virus' outbreak.

Being outside of a protective school environment exposed young girls in particular to violence and sexual assault, the interviewed children said. Researchers noted an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies in the past year as a result.

"Ebola has put an incredible strain on children's lives, and it will take time for them to recover," said Casely Coleman, Plan International's director in Sierra Leone.

Almost 13 000 people were infected with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone since early 2014, of which more than 3 900 died, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Transactional sex

Some 1.7 million children were out of school in Sierra Leone until educational facilities reopened in April.

The interviews revealed that young girls, especially those who lost relatives to Ebola, were forced into transactional sex to survive or were raped.

"Some of our friends are raped when they go far to get water," one boy said.

Sierra Leone is one of the world's five poorest nations, and UN data shows that nearly half of Sierra Leone's 6.1 million inhabitants are under the age of 18.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were worst hit by the Ebola outbreak, which broke out in Guinea in December 2013.

A total of 27 237 people worldwide were infected with the virus, of which 11 173 people were killed, according to the WHO.

Read more on:    who  |  sierra leone  |  health  |  west africa  |  ebola

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