Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Village Where Every Child Is an Orphan of the Ebola Epidemic; as Sierra Leone Waits to Be Declared Free of the Disease, Kiran Randhawa Meets the Children Left to Fend for Themselves after Their Entire Families Were Wiped Out

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Village Where Every Child Is an Orphan of the Ebola Epidemic; as Sierra Leone Waits to Be Declared Free of the Disease, Kiran Randhawa Meets the Children Left to Fend for Themselves after Their Entire Families Were Wiped Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Kiran Randhawa meets

MOUNDS of earth surround the secluded village a mile down a dusty dirt track. Bumpy roads are the norm in this part of Sierra Leone -- but under this soil lie the residents of the shacks nearby.

The community, known as The Labour Camp -- a mining town set up by the British in colonial times -- is a makeshift graveyard for Ebola victims. It is also known as the village where every child is an orphan.

The remote area in the north-west of the country is one of the hardest hit by the Ebola virus. Tragedy has visited every single one of the 32 houses, either wiping out entire families, or leaving children to fend for themselves.

The community is mainly made up of children -- 127 orphans. Aminata Conteh is just 15 and now the head of her household. Her parents died in August last year. She has three siblings, all relying on her for survival.

She said: "I have to look after them, they only have me now. My parents, my aunt, my uncle and grandparents all died."

Aminata was in quarantine after her parents died, and could not leave the house for 21 days.

Sitting on the bed where her mother died a painful death as her children watched, she sobbed: "I'm in so much pain. When I'm at school I can't concentrate. All I do is think about them and feel so sad and just cry."

Her mother's grave is an unmarked mound of earth at the back of the family home.

Mabinty Bangura, an elderly woman in the community, is the only member of her family who survived the epidemic and has adopted six orphans in the village, among them four-year-old twins Emmanuel and Abdul Konteh.

"When Ebola came, I lost 10 members of my family. I was marginalised by the community, nobody wanted to know me, they thought I was cursed," she said, adding through her tears: "All of us who are now left, are one big family, we are all we have left." At a school the Standard visited last year -- before the Ebola epidemic -- more than 50 children have since been orphaned.

One classroom at the Roman Catholic Mission Girls primary, in the town of Lunsar, is full of young girls who have lost their parents. …

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