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    Aug 20, 2014

    Ebola nations alone with their orphans


    IF THE rest of the world had its way, it would block out Ebola by shutting its doors on the West African countries that are reeling under the viral assault.

    As several airlines stop flying to the affected countries and health workers flee the places that need them most, the disease is creating new orphans every day.

    Many are staying away from these children for fear that they, too, are affected.

    They are "the poorest of the poor", said Jorge Crisafulli of the non-profit Catholic organisation Salesian Missions. The group was asked to provide care for the orphans by the government of Sierra Leone.

    The outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and, most recently, Nigeria, has sickened 2,240 people, killing at least 1,229 through Saturday, according to the World Health Organisation.

    The number of new cases has been in the triple digits in the last three updates from the health agency, with 128 infections reported last Wednesday, 152 on Friday and 113 yesterday. Liberia has the most new cases.

    About 55 per cent of those sickened have died.

    "There are already 70 in need of immediate attention," Father Crisafulli said of the orphans. "The number will increase."

    Salesian Missions said it may house the Ebola orphans in a school in Lungi, a town that's home to the country's only international airport. They cannot be taken to pre-existing shelters for fear that they are infected, he said.

    "A sick bay will be prepared and equipped in case the children present symptoms like fever, vomiting or diarrhoea," Father Crisafulli said.

    Youth throughout the region are affected even if their family members have not been infected, according to Unicef spokesman Christopher Tidey.

    Schools are closed because of the outbreak, and there is little chance that the young will get vaccinated for other diseases or receive regular health services because fear of Ebola is keeping many away from medical centres, he said via e-mail.

    In contrast, some young people have volunteered their services. "They say that it is better to die doing something good for others than to die out of fear, watching the news on TV," Father Crisafulli said.

    In Liberia, where hundreds have been quarantined in an effort to contain the disease, 17 suspected Ebola patients could not take their confinement any more and made a break for freedom. They were tracked down, bundled back and transferred to another clinic.

    Meanwhile, starting today, the affected countries will be isolated even more firmly.

    Kenya Airways, Africa's third-largest carrier, said it would cease flying today to Liberia and Sierra Leone on the advice of the Kenyan health ministry.

    That's after Korean Air Lines said it would end trips to Kenya today because of the risk of infection spreading there via services from West Africa.

    Cameroon has not only banned flights to the affected countries, but has also tightened security along its borders and seaports to keep its neighbours at arm's length.

    It may take six months to control the outbreak. After that, no doubt, there will be an outpouring of sympathy from elsewhere, relief workers said.