As violence surges in DR Congo, Ebola report finds children “sad, isolated and stressed”

Media Release: December 19, 2019

  • 61% of children surveyed believe orphaned children feel abandoned
  • 70% say child survivors of Ebola feel ostracised by friends and 33% by family
  • 87% tell their friends about Ebola so they do not get affected like they did[1]

Children in DR Congo - at risk of being trapped in an endless cycle of outbreaks of Ebola and violence - are suffering from feelings of fear, stigma and worries about the future, finds a new report from humanitarian aid agency World Vision.

Boys and girls orphaned or directly affected by Ebola said they felt isolated and lonely, were often fearful of neighbours, and remained scared of the disease. Over half of adults surveyed in the community knew of children who had been abandoned and needed much more long-term support to cope.

The release of World Vision’s Fear and Isolation report and the accompanying Beyond Ebola media briefing comes as eastern DR Congo goes through another eruption of violence that has killed Ebola health workers and led to aid agencies suspending work and relocating staff.

Anne-Marie Connor, World Vision’s National Director for DR Congo, warned: “Children affected by Ebola and violence have clearly told us they are fearful, suffering and worried about how to survive after their parents died. Just when we were thinking we could defeat Ebola the spike in violence proves that things could actually get worse for children.”

“I am deeply concerned by what is happening in eastern DR Congo because children are suffering a multiplicity of challenges like measles and retaliatory killings by armed groups, which have already claimed many more lives than Ebola has. The children are telling us they need help,” she said. “To assure child survival, protection and development we need to invest long-term to address systemic problems that have left 12.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance,” Anne-Marie added.

She said defeating Ebola in what was basically a war zone where insecurity, halted health operations, rumour and misinformation were rife, was extremely difficult.  It was likely that without peace and security Ebola outbreaks would continue to occur and ambitions to get to Zero cases, once thought possible by the New Year, might no longer be achievable within the next few months.  

World Vision deliberately interviewed survivor and affected children and their caregivers, in such a volatile context, because so little was known about how children felt or how they had been impacted.  Apart from their sense of stress, sadness and isolation children’s education and living situations were also badly affected.

The report makes four key recommendations which are to:

  • Increase funding to fight Ebola, care for children and address deep-rooted barriers to development
  • Invest in peace initiatives, health and child protection services
  • Provide more psychosocial support for boys and girls affected by Ebola
  • Help Ebola survivors– who may suffer stigma - mentally and materially prepare for life back home

World Vision is working with partners on the ground to offer psychosocial support, water sanitation and hygiene, food security and livelihood assistance to nearly 700,000 people in communities affected by Ebola and perpetual conflict.

Spokespersons are available on request.

For the full Fear and Isolation report visit:   www.wvi.org/fear-and-isolation

For the Beyond Ebola supplementary media briefing visit:  www.wvi.org/beyond-ebola

[1] 30 children affected by Ebola were interviewed as part of a survey and community focus groups discussions designed to learn more about the impact of Ebola on their lives