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West Africa is officially free of Ebola transmissions

UNICEF stands by thousands of children still in need of care and support.

Liberia has been declared free of Ebola transmissions, formally ending the largest known outbreak of the disease in history.

Today's announcement follows Guinea’s declaration in December and Sierra Leone’s in November, bringing the welcome news that there are no more cases of Ebola in West Africa.

“To have contained this epidemic is an achievement, but we can’t forget the terrible toll Ebola has taken on these countries,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Many people continue to suffer, particularly those children whose lives have been left even more vulnerable by the virus.”  

The epidemic killed more than 11,000 people and robbed nearly 23,000 children of a parent or caregiver. Nearly everyone in the three West African countries has been touched by the disease in some way. Here are some of their stories.
Student Jan Sankoh, 13, in Waterloo, Sierra Leone.

“When Ebola came into the country, school was suspended. I was so scared at first I stayed in the house. I told my neighbors that you should wash your hands even when Ebola is not here. Not everyone believed in Ebola, but I told them that they should believe it is real. Children have the right to go to school every day. When you learn, you will have everything."
 
“I want to be a scientist. I want to study about
the stars and the moon. At night, I sometimes
see shooting stars outside my house.”
© UNICEF/UNI200676/Grile
Ebola survivor and widow with four children, Hawa Kandé in Conakry, Guinea.

“My husband was a doctor and he went to Sierra Leone to look for another job. That’s what he told us. Then he got sick from Ebola and died. I think he knew he was sick and went there because he didn’t want to infect his family. That’s why he removed himself. Even though I survived Ebola, it was hard at first to come back here. Even today some of my neighbors won’t allow their children to come over."
 
“There are days I’m very down. It’s
my kids that give me strength,
because I need to take care of them."
© UNICEF/UNI200644/Grile
Imam Elhadj Cheikhouna Sylla in Conakry, Guinea.

“I knew I had an important role to play in the community and I gave more than 20 speeches in the mosque to convince people about Ebola. When there was a case in the community, I’d go and talk to the family about taking the person to the treatment centre or about having a safe burial if the person had died."
 
“Ebola has affected the way we
live together, and my hope is that
there is more peace in the country.”
© UNICEF/UNI200637/Grile
National Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of Guinea Marlaye Souma in Conakry, Guinea.

“When you become a Scout you make a promise to stay a Scout for life. We say a Boy Scout for day, a Boy Scout forever. When Ebola entered the country, UNICEF supported the Boy Scouts to distribute hygiene materials in communities. People trusted us and so we were able to help convince them that the disease was real and to teach them to use proper precautions in order to protect themselves."
 
“Looking back, I’m proud as Scout to have contributed to the training of many young boys who are today giving a lot to their community.”
​© UNICEF/UNI200642/Grile
Head teacher Elizabeth Kamara in Waterloo, Sierra Leone.

“When the schools closed because of Ebola, I decided not to sit at home idle, so I went to work at the hospital and helped wash clothes. We went for training on how to work with children who have been traumatized by the illness before the schools re-opened. When we’re in class we look at the children to identify those in need. It’s harder now to keep the children’s attention. Many have lost stability in their lives."
 
“My hope now is that by the grace of God our country will get back to normal and that we’ll be able to build up the children’s resilience.”
​© UNICEF/UNI200673/Grile
Entrepreneur Pandora Hodge in Monrovia, Liberia.

“We started doing cinema screenings in communities about Ebola, but I thought there was more we could do. We had 72 students involved and with support from the Ministry of Health and UNICEF we began going door-to-door in communities. I would always inform the leaders first and then just talk to those who were willing to listen. We reached more than 400 communities. If Liberians start to put Liberia forward first, all the wishes that we have will come true.
 
“Development doesn’t come from a country, it comes from the people within the country.”
​© UNICEF/UNI200663/Grile

UNICEF continues to stand by children


While the official end of Ebola transmissions is desperately welcome news, local communities are still feeling the effects of this outbreak.

“Ebola has been a terrifying experience for children,” said UNICEF's Manuel Fontaine. “We owe it to them and to all the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to continue to support them as they recover from the devastating effects this disease has had on their lives,” he added. 

UNICEF is ensuring that national authorities are able to provide children with a range of protection services including psychosocial support, interim care, and family tracing and reunification.

The need for ongoing vigiliance is also hugely important. UNICEF will continue to support awareness campaigns as well as rapid response teams that conduct active surveillance and early isolation, as well as provide basic services such as health, nutrition and water, hygiene and sanitation services.

With ongoing support and protection, children across West Africa will finally be able move on with their lives.
 
© UNICEF/UNI196033/Grile

Helping kids in crisis


Wherever children are caught in emergencies, UNICEF works to uphold their fundamental rights to protection, health care and education.

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