Liberia women, children bear brunt of Ebola

2014-09-19 12:55
Liberians arrive under the rain at the Medecins Sans Frontieres Ebola treatment center, in Monrovia. (Zoom Dosso, AFP)

Liberians arrive under the rain at the Medecins Sans Frontieres Ebola treatment center, in Monrovia. (Zoom Dosso, AFP)

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Monrovia - Exhausted and unable to process her loss, Olivia Clark turns away in silence as her dead baby is disinfected and loaded onto a truck by a team of Ebola specialists.

Aaron, just 18 months old, slipped away a few hours earlier, too young to fight the deadly virus amplifying inside his tiny body.

It is likely that he was infected by his father, Olivia's husband, who died at their home in the Liberian capital Monrovia two weeks earlier.

"Even if I look at him, what can I do for him? I am waiting for death myself. I no longer have tears for this. I think the best thing is to wait for Ebola to make me join my husband and my son", she says.

Although they are not supposed to let the unending tragedy get to them, several of the Red Cross workers who will bury Aaron cannot hide their despair.

"I am human too my brother", one tells AFP, voice wavering as his eyes fill up.

Olivia had taken Aaron to hospital after she noticed his fever and doctors had sent her home with some pills.

By then he had stopped breastfeeding and, eventually, ceased moving at all.

Even if his condition had been something less deadly than Ebola fever, he was hardly in surroundings conducive to recovery.

After her husband died, Olivia had been banished from the family home by neighbours worried that she would infect them.

Suddenly alone in the world, she took Aaron to a half-constructed concrete building with no windows, water or electricity, sleeping among muddy puddles that gathered in the rain and swatting away mosquitoes.

"We asked her to go in the unfinished house to sleep with her baby because when the husband died the house was not disinfected", Ahmed Folay, a community youth leader tells AFP.

"The community is helping her with food and water. That's all we can do."

2 000 Ebola orphans

Although she has not been seen by a doctor, Olivia almost certainly has Ebola.

The tropical virus, transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has killed more than 2 600 people in four countries since the start of the year, more than half of them in Liberia.

The outbreak is taking a particularly devastating toll on women, who face greater exposure to the deadly pathogen, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Liberia's health ministry has reported that three-quarters of those infected or killed by Ebola are women.

Read more on:    hrw  |  liberia  |  ebola  |  west africa

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