UNICEF report highlights dramatic impact of Ebola on children

United Nations (ANTARA News/Xinhua-OANA) - Ebola has had a devastating impact on children in most-affected West Africa, with children making up about 20 percent of infections, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) warned in a new report on Tuesday, urging efforts to defeat this scourge and restore basic services.

The report, which was released in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, Geneva, and New York, looks at the dramatic impact Ebola has had on children as it hit some of the most vulnerable communities in some of the worlds most vulnerable countries.

Of the more than 24,000 people infected, some 5,000 are children, while more than 16,000 children have lost one or both parents or their primary caregiver to the epidemic, said the report.

"For many of the 9 million children living in affected areas, Ebola has been terrifying. These children have seen death and suffering beyond their comprehension," UNICEF said.

The report also points to the central role communities are playing in the response and shows encouraging trends in safe behaviors.

"In Liberia, for example, a survey indicates that 72 percent of people believe anyone with Ebola symptoms will get better care at a treatment center, which is significant because many used to keep Ebola victims at home, spreading infection in the community," the agency said.

The release of the report comes days after the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said Liberia reported no new confirmed cases for the second consecutive week from the disease that has affected more than 24,000 people with more than 10,000 deaths.

"The outbreak will not be over until there are zero cases, and every single contact has been traced and monitored. We cannot afford to let our guard down," said Barbara Bentein, UNICEFs Global Emergency Coordinator for Ebola, in a press release.

"At the same time, basic services need to be re-established safely and responsibly, using the assets of the response," she noted.

The report also added that in the longer-term, investing in improving health care systems in Ebola affected countries will help tackle other diseases such as measles, pneumonia and diarrhea, which take a heavy toll on children.

"In this process, it is crucial to build on gains made during the response, to build back better and address historical inequities," it said.(*)